Pets in the workplace reduce stress, increase productivity
Today’s office looks and feels much different from the offices of our grandfathers. There are both more women — and more dogs — in the workplace than ever before, and companies are reaping the benefits of both.
The truth is, while Don Draper might scoff at today’s diverse workforce, pets, in particular, are taking company cultures by storm. Dogs in the copy room are no longer far-fetched, as companies — from monoliths like Amazon to family-owned bookstores — hop on the pet-friendly bandwagon.
And why not? Offices that allow Fido to come along have reported all sorts of benefits, from increased morale and less stress to better employee retention to increased productivity. No surprise there. When employees can bring their furry friends to work, there’s less incentive to rush home at the end of the day. Workers with dogs take more breaks between tasks, prompted by their canine companion to go outside for a quick walk. And as our recent TSheets productivity survey will tell you, taking frequent breaks makes workers more productive.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2018 report, 9 percent of American workplaces now allow employees to bring their pets to work. That’s an increase of 5 percent from 2014! What’s more, the number of workplaces offering pet insurance is also growing. This year, 1 in 10 employers is offering employees the chance to insure their fur-babies through work.
The tail of Basil: Much more than an herb
Until recently, we TSheeters had an office dog of our own: Basil the Wonderhound. While she didn’t exactly belong to us — being in training for her future career as a diabetic alert dog — she was very much our local celebrity, loved by all.
Her owner and trainer, Annie, sits on our Customer Success team as our video media specialist. You’ve likely heard her soothing voice on one of our many demos, but little did you know, Basil was almost certainly in the background, snoozing at her feet.
Annie has been with TSheets for three years, Basil for two. Given we recently added 184 new members to our team, it’s safe to say Basil has had a longer TSheets career than a third of our current, quickly growing staff.
Curious about what that journey has been like, we asked Annie to tweet the deets on bringing her dog to work. Granted, Basil is a very special service dog, but hopefully, you can take a little hindsight from this dynamic duo’s 20/20.
‘Lord… give me strength to do it again.’
What was it like, bringing Basil to work for the first time?
“Basil was only 12 weeks old when I brought her to work for the first time. She was cute and fluffy, and I had to take her outside to the bathroom a lot. Everyone in the office adored her. I was a bit apprehensive bringing her in when she was so young, but she did amazingly well. She got lots of cuddles and kisses that first day.”
How has she grown since then?
“For starters, she’s not afraid of the stairs anymore, but she learned how to behave at work and be ‘in jacket.’ This is an important distinction service dogs need to learn; when they are ‘in jacket’ and working, and when they’re just a normal dog.”
What does Basil do for her officemates?
“Basil provides comfort and joy. When someone is having a bad day, they come pet Basil. When people need a break from their jobs, they come pet Basil. One of Basil’s favorite things to do is walk around the office (not in jacket) and say hi to everyone. It’s her officemates’ favorite thing too.”
Do you have any cute/funny/inspiring stories about Basil in the office? A time she helped someone get through the day?
“There were stories every day. When someone was having a tough day, just the sight of Basil cheered them up. She brought joy to everyone. If I could see that someone was having a tough day, I’d send Basil over to them, and they always felt better after sitting with her for a while.”
What’s it like having a dog in the office? What would be your top pro and con?
“Having a dog in the office is the best. They increase morale, they help with anxiety, and they’re always a friendly face. My top pro is knowing there’s always a sweet, scruffy, positivity-filled face waiting to make my day better. The only real con is all the stuff I have to bring for her every day (food, toys, treats, etc.). But let’s be honest, there really is no con to having a dog in the office.”
What recommendations would you have for an office manager considering allowing pets in the office (not necessarily service dogs, but all pets)?
“I would say, do it! This really only works with well-behaved dogs, but having a dog in the office can help employees so much, maybe even more than they know. Dogs can bring the stress level in the office down, can build morale, and can even help with productivity. They’re an amazing addition to any office.”
What services will Basil be providing in her new gig?
“Basil is a diabetic alert dog, so she will be alerting her new owner to changes in glucose levels. Diabetic alert dogs can be a real life-saving measure for those with diabetes, and another tool to help manage their diabetes.”
What challenges are you anticipating from no longer having her as your work buddy?
“There will be many, just because she’s been my constant companion for over two years, but I am anticipating being sad, at least for a while, and being lonely. It’s different walking around the office alone.”
Would you do it again?
“I would definitely do it again, but I’ll need to grieve over her loss for a while, and then I can move on and train another. Service dogs are always in need, and only puppy raisers can fulfill that request.”
If you’re interested, there is a puppy raiser’s prayer that is sure to make you cry.
Lord, let me lead the way for this tiny new life.
Keep it healthy now and always.
Watch over us and guide our direction.
Help me to introduce difficult situations with clear confidence, which spills over to the pup.
Let me praise responsibly, timely, and lavishly.
Give me extra patience for the times ahead.
Teach me to navigate on sleep shortages.
Remind me to give a chew toy as a substitute for randomly retrieved objects.
Keep me aware of the working drive, least I inhibit that desire and ruin the future.
Help me to shape the pup’s behavior using commands—not anger—for nothing is gained through anger.
Help me to be persistent and consistent with all aspects of training, because I know nothing is learned with mixed messages.
Let me be creative, for one concept can be taught many ways.
Help me so the pup will reach full potential.
Lord, give me peace when I return this pup.
Guide my thoughts away from emptiness to the future partner and the joy that will result.
Help me to focus on their future when it’s time to let go.
Mend my heart quickly as you mold them into one.
Let them grow and flourish as a team.
Give them the same loving guidance that you gave me.
And Lord … give me strength to do it again.
Melanie S. Meenen
Boy, this is going to be ruff
Suffice to say, when we heard Basil was about to graduate from training and leave our office forever to pursue her destiny, there were a lot of broken hearts.
The gifs got real.
Fliers went up around the office, inviting everyone to Basil’s goodbye party, with the apt headline, “Boy, this is going to be ruff.” The event was even broadcast by a local news station.
Last Friday, we said our goodbyes, wishing Basil the best, but wishing harder she was here to stay, which leads us to …
Hey Matt, can we get a puppy? Pleeeeeeease?
Canine co-workers may not make sense for every workplace, but we’d like to think our fun-loving company culture is exactly the kind of place where a pet could be happy. Here are a few suggestions from the pros, in case you were thinking about adopting a pet-friendly policy.
- Build a plan that works for everyone.
At Amazon, employees who want to bring their dog to work first have to clear the request with their manager and their nearby teammates. The employee then reviews the company’s pet rules and submits their animal’s proof of vaccinations. Finally, the pet owner must prove the animal is housebroken, well-behaved, healthy, and socialized.
- Cover your legal bases.
You’ll want to consult a professional on this, but a good starting point would be to make sure employees who bring in their pets have insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents. Employees should also sign waivers, assuming responsibility for their animal, and contracts stating they will keep up with things like vaccinations, parasite prevention, good animal hygiene, etc.
- Establish a pet-proofed relaxation haven.
Animals, like people, need to blow off steam when they feel restless. While brief walks around the block may be enough, if your office has the real estate to establish an indoor or outdoor play space, you should absolutely consider it. Likewise, it’s important for pet parents to know what areas are out of bounds for their fur-children. If your company has a cafeteria, for example, the health department may prefer you keep the area animal-free.
Whether you adopt a company cat or an all-hands dog-friendly pet policy, animals in the office have a lot to offer their two-legged co-workers. Do you allow pets in your workplace? Tell us about them in the comments below!