Forward thinking employers have increasingly been allowing or encouraging workers to bring Fido to the office over the last several years. Is the open door policy for the pooches a business accelerator, or is Fifi’s presence a distraction and an inconvenience?
Full Disclosure: I am an unabashed dog person. Along with my wife and my sons, I am a dog lover. I talk to my dogs, take them for walks, play with them, and look forward to their constant cheerfulness and their unwavering love and affection. I cannot imagine my life without having one or two furry best friends hanging around, enhancing my experience. I also worked in an office with a charming (while slightly deranged) cat back in the nineties. The cat, Mrs. Poole, was a lovely feline who did the moonwalk every so often, to the delight of our associates. No kidding!
For many years, in my corporate life, I had to, like most people, head to the office or the airport and leave my best friends behind. It was a sad parting each and every time. I got over it, and got focused on work, but I didn’t like any aspect of not having my best friends available to me, sometimes for days or weeks at a time. Certainly, this was necessary at the time, but it was not my choice, and it was not my preference.
Upon opening my new office earlier this year, I surprised a few people when, in negotiating a lease for my new offices I demanded that I be allowed to bring my dog(s) to work with me each day. The landlord agreed, so long as the dog was properly controlled, behaved appropriately and didn’t disrupt the other tenants. I had two reasons for demanding this: One, I enjoy having my dogs around, they brighten my mood and help me to be at my best. Especially during days when the pressure or stress are higher. Two, I wanted to turn up the warmth in my coaching practice for recruiting and retention purposes. I like that my colleagues in the business understand that having the dogs (Izzy and Dakota) hanging around lazily during the day, keeps us calm and focused on being good human beings. Dogs do that for people. They set a fine example for how we should behave: Be warm, friendly, hopeful, open, coachable, eager, willing to serve, and many other very admirable traits. They also are willing to work for Milk Bones!
No sooner had we moved into our offices this spring than Izzy, our 13-pound goodwill ambassador, began to charm the fellow tenants in our building. People who used to pass one another anonymously in the hallway with barely a nod or a murmur or a barely audible hello, began to stop and visit. Some of them asked if Izzy could visit their offices. Our neighbors began to make it a point to stop by for daily visits to see our little snaggle-toothed receptionist, and give her an affectionate pet, or a Milk Bone. I have been amazed at how much having a dog or two around the office gives our guests the ability just to slow down and turn on the charm. This added bonus has been very satisfying.
I have found that with the dog around, it is very hard for people to overheat emotionally. It’s amazing how calming it is to see a little puppy with a wagging tail looking up at you, asking you to take her for a walk. And the mental breaks that you enjoy as you take your dog out for a 5 or 10-minute walk are incredible. Amy, my office manager, regularly comments about how much she enjoys having the dog in the office with us. The neighbors obviously enjoy it too. Every once in awhile, travel during the day means that our office is sans dog, and the difference is palpable. We feel the energy sag when the office is dog-free.
Of course, a dog is a dog, and they will occasionally behave like dogs. Squirrel! They are baffled by our lack of appreciation when the door opens, and they dash down the hallway. They don’t understand that a barking dog is a disruption in any office situation and in any language. Still, the benefits of a vastly relaxed atmosphere seem to outweigh the rare disruptions that a dog presents. The stress levels in our office are moderated, day in and day out. Our 13-pound stress regulator delivers results, day in and day out. Perhaps the best benefit of all is that our little “welcome hostess” seems to ‘genuinely’ put a human face on our business by allowing us to share her “slightly imperfect, yet charming” canine face. When clients, vendors and partners come to call in our offices, they are always greeted warmly with excitement, and best of all, a wagging tail. It’s magical! And best, the stress levels of our clients immediately drop, no matter how crummy the day they’ve been having up to then. Izzy is as important to our clients as our practice of offering them their favorite coffee, soft beverage or snack
Having a dog around is a catharsis for me, and for Amy, and for our customers and neighbors. We have no doubt that our productivity and our endurance are enhanced by our little friend keeping us balanced. She gives us a reason to get out into the neighborhood for 3 or 4 walks each day, keeping us healthier. We have no doubt that our office environment is enhanced as much by our karma filtration system (Izzy) as much as it is by our air filtration system and our lighting fixtures and artwork. We worked hard to create a welcoming environment, but the coup de grace was the 13-pound love machine.
What do you think? Are you a fan of allowing a dog or a cat in your office? I have become convinced that it is a game changer. Add your comment or send your message to Izzy below in the comment section and we’ll enter you into a drawing for a nifty Michael Beach Coaching & Consulting Coffee Mug. Have a wonderful day!