Employee Engagement

Pack Mentality: How Dog-Friendly Policies Might Improve Company Culture and Engagement

By Francesca Mathewes

Jul. 30, 2019

Imagine it’s a typical, hurried, tired Monday morning.

You rush out the door, coffee in hand, and by the grace of green traffic lights, make it to the office just in time. The ride up the elevator is a familiar feeling — to-do lists and meeting agendas already running through your mind.

Upon opening the office doors, you’re greeted by your coworkers and their smiling, tail-wagging dogs.

This is a reality in a steadily increasing amount of workplaces across the country. According to a 2019 benefits survey by Society for Human Resource Management, 11 percent of workplaces allow dogs, a 3 percent increase from 2015.

In June, Rover, an in-home dog-walking and pet care company, released a list of the 100 Best Dog-Friendly Offices in the United States, which was topped by the likes of widely known organizations such as Amazon, Airbnb and Uber. In forming the list, Rover considered dog-related benefits such as dogs being allowed in the office, pet stipends, paid time-off for pet bereavement and other pet-related amenities, such as green spaces to walk your dog and treats.

For many, the idea of having a furry friend tag along from nine to five is ideal. However, creating a space that is both dog-friendly and people-friendly takes time and thoughtful planning, said Jovana Teodorovic, head of people and culture at Rover, where people can bring their dogs to work every day.

dogs in the workplace
Jovana Teodorovic, head of people and culture at Rover, and Riley.

“That doesn’t work in every environment. It depends on what building you’re in, how dog-friendly they are and how much space you have,” she said. “We have been very proactive in how we design our spaces, and that allows a large number of dogs in the office every day.”

Teodorovic said that allowing dogs in the office has positively impacted company culture at Rover as well as the productivity and happiness of individual employees. Dogs often serve as a point of conversation and connection between employees.

“Taking a break during the day to play with your dog is a great way to feel better throughout the day and to feel more engaged with the work you’re doing,” she said.

However, introducing dogs into the office requires proactive planning and open communication between all levels of an organization’s structure.

“The first thing is to have employee buy-in regarding these policies,” Teodorovic said. “[Make] sure that the majority is comfortable with being pet-friendly and then having mechanisms in place around the folks who have allergies or have a fear of dogs.”

Rover also has thought out policies regarding all the “what ifs” that come with being a pet-friendly office, from potential altercations between dogs to the inevitable need for “doggy bags.”

“We offer free dog-walking for our employees so that the dogs are walked and quiet and satisfied,” Teodorovic said. “The dogs are in a safe space every day and we have dog gates as well.”

Creating a safe, regulated and familiar environment for dogs also helps reduce any incidents.

“Of course our employees being very dog-oriented and great dog owners and training their dogs from the beginning creates a really great workplace,” Teodorovic said. “But it’s different for any company and it really should be an evolving process.”

Ultimately, Teodorovic said, an organization may determine that dogs-in-the-office policies simply aren’t for them, whether that’s due to allergies, building policies or the wants of employees.

There are other ways for employers to be dog-friendly without actually having dogs in the office. Many of the companies on Rover’s list as well as Rover have benefits that support pet-owners. These benefits range from “pawternity” leave (an extra week of paid time off after getting a new dog), providing $500-$1,000 toward adoption fees, and free dog-sitting services.

Teodorovic said that dog-friendly policies and benefits can not only be a tool in increasing retention and recruiting, but improving employee’s everyday experience at work.

“If a company is struggling to create their culture or having a positive culture, it’s a really great way — without having a ton of policies and meetings and work — to accelerate the quality of their interactions and the quality of their company culture,” she said.

Francesca Mathewes is an editorial associate for Workforce.

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