Why more companies are opening office doors to dogs

Pet-inclusive workplaces crop up amid a proliferation of “lockdown puppies”

April 10, 2024

As people return to the office, so too are their pets.

Household names like Salesforce, Uber, Ben & Jerry’s and Google (Alphabet) are welcoming pets – mainly dogs – into their offices.

The flexibility is one of the perks more companies are using among hybrid work models and efforts to get people back in the workplace. On average, JLL estimates employees now spend 3.1 days of the week in the office.

It’s also caused by the rise in so-called lockdown puppies, acquired when many employees became dog owners during the pandemic. In the U.S., 78% of pet owners surveyed by Forbes Advisor acquired pets during the pandemic.

Even the European Commission last year began discussions on dog policies for EU institution buildings.

“More companies are opening their doors to dogs, and that’s coming at a time of serious discussion about the workplace, its appeal to hybrid employees and occupancy levels,” says Emma Hendry, People Experience Managing Director for JLL Consulting.

“Being dog-friendly offers companies a big opportunity to engage employees and potentially boost that days-per-week average,” says Hendry. 

Treats on offer

There are practical benefits for dog owners, like not having to check the dog camera to see if things are ok back home, or pay a dog sitter. But it’s not just about convenience for dog-owners themselves.

There are wellbeing benefits. A study by the Harvard Business Review, University College London and the National University of Singapore found that pets contribute to a more pleasant and social work environment. 

“A dog under a desk may go unnoticed, but equally it can spark new conversation between colleagues and greater interaction. It’s a great icebreaker,” says Hendry. “Stress levels have been proven to lower.”

However, a pack of quadrupeds sniffing around the workplace is not for all. Many large employers have blanket no-dog policies, often due to feasibility, given the scale of their workforce and size of their workplace. 

“There’s of course a valid point that for some: it could affect focus and concentration,” says Hendry. “Impact on colleagues who aren’t dog lovers, or who may even be allergic, should also be considered.”

Small firms can take the lead

Some big companies are dog friendly. In Seattle, around 10,000 dogs are registered to come to the office at a major e-commerce firm, which also offers dog-friendly features such as paw wash stations. Tech giant Google has also long been a “dog company,” putting its policies into its code of conduct well before the pandemic ushered in a new wave of dog owners. 

But Hendry says smaller companies may find it easier to welcome dogs into the workplace.

“At start-ups, it’s often the founder who has a dog, which then becomes a de facto office mascot,” she says. “There’s a nimbleness to smaller firms and that may mean less formal structure is needed.”

That said, regardless of company and workplace size, getting pet policies right – such as proof of vaccination – is crucial. Often, it’s only those certified as highly trained working dogs and in service to assist disabled employees that are permitted. 

“Many companies already use trial days to assess behavior in advance of giving employees permission to bring their dog to work,” Hendry says. “I’ve even heard of a three-strikes and you’re out rule, while one major European corporate uses a professional dog trainer to initially assess dogs’ behavior before giving the green light to office attendance.”

Workplace booking systems, where companies can avoid an overcrowded office on, typically, a Wednesday, are already in place.

“Factoring dogs into such booking systems could be an option if companies need to avoid their workplaces becoming pooch heavy,” Hendry says. “There’s certainly no sign of a one-size-fits-all approach.”

With dog ownership showing no signs of peaking, companies will continue to adapt.

“Many dog owners are now realizing a dog is for life, not just for Covid-19,” says Hendry. “So I’d expect to see more companies include a range of dog policies in their workplace strategies.”

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