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It’s a dog’s (working) life

The concept of work-life balance has never really been about keeping the two separate. More about managing the way they interact so that we don’t become overly engaged in one or the other (though, to be fair, it’s usually ‘work’ that is seen as needing balance).

Usually, the focus is on supporting employees at an individual level but organisation-wide events and activities are also common. For example, open days, in which non-employees can go behind the scenes to better understand what goes on. A more explicitly family-focused event is the ‘bring your child to work day' enabling them to see where daddy or mummy goes for 8+ hours each day… But what about employees who aren’t parents? How about bring your dog to work day (which this year occurred on 23rd June – arguably a less controversial use for that date than last year!).

Why bring your dog to work?

Bizarre as it may sound, employees that spend their working day with their pet report increased job satisfaction, better team co-operation and improved morale.

Companies that have participated cite a positive impact on the non-dog owners too, mentioning stress relief and increased interaction between team members who may not have much to do with each other on a regular day.

Of course, some of these benefits may depend on the dog in question…

A recent CIPD article focused on Nestlé, whose subsidiary Purina Petcare has (perhaps unsurprisingly given their line of business) been running a pets at work policy for over a dozen years now.

So, what does a dog-under-the-desk policy really involve in practice?

Preventing disruption

Just putting a poster invitation on the bulletin board inviting Fido is a recipe for disaster – if you fancy trying this, the menagerie must be managed.

First, get your senior team signed up to the general benefits. You don’t need a long-term Purina-style policy to begin with, just a test day to see how things go. Dig out some research on the benefits of inviting four-legged colleagues to the workplace such as that from the US-based Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Human-Animal Interaction.

Second, agree some rules to keep the disruption factor down. When deciding what would work for your workplace, remember to seek out the views of people who may not be so keen on dogs – some have phobias or allergies, others are simply unmoved by a furry friend – they’re part of the workforce too and deserve some input.

Third, think about logistics: water bowls, beds/lying places, places or routes for walks, how to deal with excess noise (how do you explain it to customers on the phone?), where will the dog-free zones be, and on a very practical level, be ready to deal with a nervous animal who may conduct their ‘business’ in the office!

The key is to talk to everyone and find a way of giving it a go without it becoming a divisive event.

It may seem like an odd thing to do but bringing a dog to work is just another way of encouraging employees to personalise the workplace. Done well, it can be fun and fun is something most people would like a little more of at work.

Just be prepared for the budgerigar-lovers to cry, ‘Fowl’. (Sorry!).

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