Here at Kurgo, we are honored to have recently been called “The World’s Most Dog Friendly Office” by Inc. Magazine. We know that many of you would love to have dogs in your office too! It does take planning and some ground rules to make it work for everyone involved, but most companies find it improves morale, adds to the company culture, and gives employees more flexibility. If you are thinking about becoming a dog friendly workplace, here are some things to consider and some tips to make it work for everyone.
- Establish ground rules
It is important to set expectations at the outset. The more detailed, the better. Here at Kurgo we have a pet policy that is signed by anyone wanting to bring in their pet. It lays out the behavior that is expected from a dog and the responsibilities of the employee in caring and picking up after their dog. It’s all about having clear communication between employees so no one is surprised.
Basic requirements for coming to the office could include dogs having up-to-date vaccinations and being house trained. Additionally, dogs MUST be friendly and get along well with other dogs and humans. Your dog will be meeting new people and dogs every day and they need to be able to behave appropriately. Consider your company culture and environment to develop your own set of criteria for disqualifying dogs from coming to work. Some examples could include: excessive barking, aggressive behavior towards dogs, or excessive chewing of furniture or other items. You could also manage the situation by limiting the number of dogs allowed each day or designating only certain days as dog friendly. Just be sure to write it down and communicate it frequently.
- Have dedicated times for dogs to interact
Planning set times for interaction will ensure employees can maximize productivity and will cut down on disruption throughout the day. “In the morning, as dogs arrive, they are allowed to play and greet for a few minutes before starting the day…like humans do, but a little more physical!” says Colleen McCracken, CEO of Maine-based Planet Dog. “We (also) have a fenced-in dog park, and team members often coordinate breaks in the day to allow the dogs to be with their BFFs.”
It can also be helpful to establish situations where dogs are welcome versus situations where a dog should be left at home or in an employee’s office. Meetings in crowded conference rooms can become even more chaotic with multiple dogs. Large company meetings or a busy company café might be too overwhelming for many dogs. As you are easing into a dog friendly workplace, setting up some guidelines could help make the transition easier. You can always loosen or tighten those guidelines.
- Give dogs and their owners a dedicated work space
At BISSELL Home Care in Grand Rapids, MI, over 70% of employees have dogs. The company features a “Pet Spot” equipped with an indoor play area, kennels, and even a bathing station. President Jim Krzeminski notes, “There are employee work stations in the same room so people can work in close proximity to their dogs which is a win-win for all.”
While you may not have dedicated pet space, you should in your guidelines provide tips on where dogs are welcome to hang out and where they might not be. Are dogs allowed in the lunch room and bathrooms? What about the executive conference room? Are there certain outdoor areas or lawn spaces where employees should avoid taking their dogs?
- Take walks together
Short walks during office hours are a nice break for dogs and owners alike. Having dogs around encourages employees to take breaks and go on walks together, leading to increased exercise for both. Pets can let off some steam, and come back to the office a little less wound up. In turn, employees may feel refreshed, and that can lead to increased productivity. Dan Hinds, Kurgo Marketing Specialist, says, “One of the best parts of bringing dogs to work is taking them out for walks. It’s a great quick breather, made even better when everyone walks their dogs together at lunch. You get some out-of-office chat time, energizing you for working the rest of the day.”
- Provide pet amenities onsite.
Kurgo, Kimpton Hotels, and Ruffwear offer dog beds, water bowls, and toys for their office dogs. Here at Kurgo, we also redesigned our office space to be dog friendly in 2016, including special doggie water fountains, dog shower, concrete floors for easy clean up, and hooks and racks to hold leashes at each desk.
At WeWork in both Boston, Chicago, and Washington D.C., workers have access to dog walking with Baroo, a dog-walking service. If you are located in an office with other companies or your company is sizeable, consider looking into services like dog walking and grooming that can be done on site so your employees can be more productive. A play group or extra walk is going to keep the pups more manageable too.
- Consider outside amenities as well
Planet Dog created a fenced-in dog park, so there’s room to exercise and take potty breaks. They also provide poop bag stations at each entrance, to encourage quick and easy cleanup when you take your dog out. Even if your office doesn’t have the space for an outside play area, it is a good idea to designate areas where dogs can relieve themselves or get exercise.
- Establish space for down time
Just like people, dogs need to have a way to have quiet time. Here at Kurgo, all employees with dogs have baby gates because sometimes a dog needs to have his own space – whether to avoid other dogs that are bothering him/her or just to take a break and calm down. Dogs do naturally sleep most of the day, so they need a space to do that.
- Keep the kitchen stocked for Fido too
Many companies offer onsite snacks and coffee for employees. “We take turns getting dog treats – so it’s fun for everyone in the company even if they don’t have a dog,” said Sandrine Mangia-Park, VP of Marketing at Runkeeper, Boston-based running app. It’s important, though, to establish the rules for feeding. Not only do some dogs have special diets, but if every employee doled out treats every day, you would end up with an office full of dogs who need a whole lot more exercise.
- Be sensitive to employees who don’t love dogs.
Ideally, prospective employees will be attracted to your organization because they love the culture, which includes dogs. Throughout the interview process, make it clear that your company is dog friendly and clearly communicate what that means. From time to time, you may come across an outstanding candidate who is lukewarm about working alongside dogs every day. Consider a pet-free zone in your office for those folks as well as anyone else who might want a break from the canine crew.