Pet-friendly leases for commercial tenants in office buildings are booming across Europe and the United States, and now some Australian employers are opening their offices to employees’ four-legged friends.
Allowing staff to bring their pets into work occasionally doesn’t only alleviate the anxiety of owners who have to leave their best friends home alone all day. It also benefits non-owners. The presence of animals in an office is said to reduce stress for everyone present, providing a calmer, more collaborative environment. Stroking an animal could even reduce blood pressure.
The Economist reported on a study from the US in which two groups of four individuals had to come up with a short advertisement for an imaginary product. Everyone was to contribute ideas, but they had to select just one in the end.
Some of the groups had a dog under foot throughout, while the others had none. Afterwards, all the volunteers answered a questionnaire on how they felt about working with the other – human – members of the team.
Researchers found that those who’d had the company of a canine ranked their team-mates higher in the categories of trust, team cohesion and intimacy than those who hadn’t.
San Fran takes it all the way
Levels of dog-friendliness in San Franciscan work places range from a simple clause in the lease enabling companies to implement a dog friendly policy if they choose, to the likes of Google, which has full-on doggy-doo stations complete with little bags, gloves and spray bottles for any accidents. Indeed, the company’s code of conduct specifically states: “Affection for our canine friends is an integral facet of our corporate culture.”
Employers at Salesforce go so far as to provide doggy day care, so instead of having Fido sit at your feet all day, you can drop him off with his fellow pups for a day of fun, frolics and food treats. Meanwhile, at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, nearly 2000 employees have registered their pets so they can take them in. Desks are stocked with treats, some water fountains are set at dog height, and there’s even an off-leash park (which is also open to the public) where employees can take their pets for walks.
“Having them in the office definitely brightens the day.” Kirsten, digital manager at a Brisbane media agency
Australian workplaces still sniffing it out
Where do we stand in Australia? While it’s not yet a commonplace, there’s a growing trend for employers to ask for pet-friendly leases when choosing their premises.
Staff at Macquarie Bank in Sydney’s Martin Place hit the news when they invited a brood of chickens and several hives of honey bees onto their rooftop, creating a space for quiet contemplation and general wellbeing.
Dexus, meanwhile, has a dog clause in place with 5 Martin Place tenant WeWork, and even has a resident Customs dog at Canberra’s Finlay Crisp Centre.
One media agency in Brisbane started welcoming employees’ dogs into the office last year. Digital manager Kirsten brings her fluffy little four-year-old Alfie in about once a week, to the delight of her colleagues.
“I’d say there are around four or five regular dogs and up to 15 different dogs in total that visit,” she explains.
“Some are a little stir-crazy and sometimes only come for half-days so they aren’t too disruptive… We do try to be conscious when other dogs will be in (on the same floor) in case they bark and distract others.
“Having them in the office definitely brightens the day. I’m often asked ‘when is Alfie next coming in?’
“He has favourites in the office and when I’m busy he’ll go and sit with them to enjoy their company for a while.
“I’ve had people who are having a stressful day come to get a hug from Alfie to help them relax.”
While there are drawbacks to consider – health and hygiene issues, as well as noise and potential conflict (with other animals as well as humans) – it seems irrefutable that allowing staff to bring their animals into work can boost employee satisfaction and, therefore, loyalty.
The question is, will your company grab the oppawtunity?