A dog-friendly workplace – the claws and effect

It’s a well-known fact that a happy employee is a motivated one, but what’s the best way to make the work environment a livelier place?

Companies like Nestle and Mars think they have found the answer in allowing their employees to bring their furry friends to the office.

As a dog owner, the idea of being able to bring my puppy to work with me is exciting but at the same time, I have my doubts about its effectiveness on productivity.

On one hand, introducing a pet-friendly policy has the potential to create a happier workplace. Dogs are, by their nature, a playful animal and having them around during office hours would certainly break the monotony that can sometimes stifle employee motivation and productivity. Paul Steadman, the HR director for a division of Nestle, reported that the introduction of the policy added ‘an extra dimension of fun and positivity’ to the workplace and resulted in more spontaneous interaction between colleagues.

As well as the benefits of breaking work-day routine, there is also a suggestion that allowing employees to bring their dogs to work can reduce stress. With the average working day lasting between seven and nine hours, leaving your pet alone in the house can be a worry. Often, the only option can be to use lunch breaks to journey home and this, in itself, can put an added stress on the employee – not allowing them to have some time to eat and relax before returning to their responsibilities at work. By approving a dog-friendly policy, Nestle and Mars have allowed their workforce to complete their day without the distraction or worry of a dog stuck at home. In fact, Pets at Home are even looking into the implementation of ‘pawternity’ leave, to allow their employees to take time off if they need to look after their dogs outside of the workplace.

Though Nestle’s results are certainly encouraging, I can’t help but consider the other side of the policy. Without a doubt, creating a dog-friendly workplace could result in a happier environment for those who are animal lovers – but what about employees who aren’t? or even suffer from allergies?

Nestle created a solution to this problem in the form of dog-friendly ‘zones’, limiting the presence of pets to certain areas of their headquarters so employees who don’t like the idea of paws pattering around their workspace can get on in peace. Though it might work for Nestle, this kind of restriction does limit the suitability of the policy to workplaces that are big enough to accommodate it.

And then there’s the obvious one – if you allow dogs to the workplace, do you risk introducing a distraction for your employees? From first-hand experience, doing pretty much anything around a playful dog will take twice as long. As I’m writing this article, my dog is currently sprawling herself across my keyboard, desperate to see what’s important enough to distract from her scheduled three o’clock belly scratching. Again, Nestle tried to create a solution to this problem – by interviewing each owner and their dog to determine suitability – but as a business, does this risk creating problems with the employees who don’t pass the test?

There are clearly a lot of arguments both ways, in the end it’s up to each business to weigh the positives and negatives, but there’s definite pet-ential in this new method of employee motivation. 

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