The dos and don’ts of taking your dog with you when you return to the office
“I think Cooper made his first appearance in the office about a month after I started,” says 33-year-old, Adam Lomas. Cooper is his Chow Chow dog who, prior to the pandemic, was spending one day a week in the office with Lomas. “It was a great way to meet people in the business in those first few months.”
Working as a demand planner for Mars Petcare, perhaps it’s unsurprising that Lomas’ workplace was so receptive to him bringing Cooper with him, but there’s evidence that office dogs were on the rise before Covid came along – and are likely to be become even more popular as we start to return to the workplace.
The UK’s dog population rose by more than 10 per cent under lockdown, with the number of dogs now totalling over 11 million. Mars Petcare’s own research has found that 71 per cent of Gen Z and 48 per cent of millennial workers have asked or plan to ask their employers to implement a pet-friendly workplace policy when offices reopen and as many as 50 per cent of C-Suite executives (CEO, CTO, CFO etc) say they plan to allow pets in offices.
For Lomas, having Cooper around has made a huge difference to working life. “Taking him out for a quick sniff and a toilet break gives me a reason to get up,” he says. “If I’m having a bad day and I’m puzzling over something and I can’t quite find a solution, that break from a screen refreshes me and helps me come up with solutions.
“While I’ve been working from home I’ve definitely been guilty of just sitting at my dining table on my chair, staring at a screen all day. He’s definitely good for getting me on my feet, getting me out, getting me to look away from my screen. And let’s be honest, if I’m having a bad day, looking down and seeing a cute little face looking up at me definitely lifts my mood.”
Lomas isn’t the only one to have felt the benefits of having pets in the office. Of those who had pet-friendly policies, the survey found that 42 per cent had seen increased productivity and 24 per cent said employees were happier. In fact, 75 per cent of bosses claimed being a pet owner made them a better, more compassionate business leader.
Given that vets are expecting a tidal wave of pet separation anxiety when offices reopen, particularly among the animals who have been purchased and raised in lockdown, allowing office dogs might be a good solution.
That’s not to say workers should be given carte blanche to bring their animals to the office, says Lomas. “I have two dogs and only Cooper comes to the office with me. He’s quite ambivalent to the attention people want to give him, but he doesn’t seek it out. He wasn’t distracting people.
“I know my other dog would not have been comfortable in that environment. There would have been too much going on for him. He loves attention so every time anybody walked past he would have been jumping up, and he can be hit and miss around other dogs, so it wasn’t the right environment for him. It definitely depends on your dog’s personality and the office they’re coming into.”
The dos and don’t of bringing your dog to the office
How do you know if your dog is a good fit for office life and how can you help make it a success? Pet behaviourist, Dr Tammie King, offers her advice.
1. Do make sure you have a firm code of conduct in place. “At minimum, you’d expect healthy dogs with up to date worming and vaccination to transmission to other dogs or people. Maybe there’s age restrictions: are puppies allowed into the office? Making sure the animal is toilet trained would be a sensible option. You could do behavioural assessments to understand whether that dog is a good fit for the office.”
2. Don’t just assume your colleagues will be enamoured with your pet. “There are people with allergies, people who don’t like dogs, who are afraid of dogs, or some people might simply be distracted by having dogs around. If you have the option to work flexibly, I’d be inclined to suggest that these people work in a different area to where the dog is, or they could come into the office on different days to the dog.”
3. Do prepare your dog for office life. “Make sure they have been exposed to different environments, that they’re well-socialised, and used to different sights and sounds. Is the dog used to ringing phones, whirring printers, coffee machines going off and people talking and moving about? Take familiar items: a comfortable familiar bed, favourite toys, some long-lasting chews or things to keep them occupied when you are busy. Get them used to sitting under a desk because there’s where they might be spending a bulk of the day.”
4. Don’t forget basic health and safety. “Research has shown the most common issues with bringing dogs to work are staff tripping over dog leads, dog beds, or dog toys, but these are somewhat easy to mitigate – just make sure there are clear pathways and policies in place to address that.”
5. Do try to tire your dog out before taking it to the office. “Before you get to work, give them plenty of exercise, obedience training to mentally tire them out, scent games and scattering food along the floor can help too, so that you get to the office they’re more likely to get to sleep than jump about and distract everybody.”
6. Don’t force your dog into the office if it’s unhappy to be there. “If it’s an extreme reaction: if they’re avoiding people or they’re cowering under the desk, those extreme responses, I probably wouldn’t push a dog to continue in that situation. Take it slowly if you can, gauge how the dog is coping in that new situation.”
Will you be taking your dog with you when you return to the office? Tell us in the comments section below