“So this dog walks into a job interview…”
Several years ago, during a break in a presentation I was doing in Seattle, a veterinarian excitedly announced he’d just secured office space in a building that also housed one of the large local tech companies. I didn’t get the connection, but he had an answer ready when I asked him what it was.
“They all have dogs and they bring them to work,” he said. I then learned his soon-to-be-neighbor tech company includes a “pet interview” in its hiring process to make sure the dogs are just as qualified to be in the office as the humans. Apparently, many applicants were more nervous that their pet pass their interview than interviewing well themselves.
Fast forward to today: Taking your dog to work during the time of COVID-19 means just walking down the hall to your home office with your tail-wagging shadow — or perhaps having your canine settle at your feet when you work at the kitchen or dining room table. Some of us even took this forced time at home as an opportunity to foster a pet, as I did with Buddy, who’s now a permanent member of the family.
But at some point, most of us will return to the workplace, even if it’s only a few days a week, so our routine will change and we’ll have to leave our best friend at home. This is a bigger deal than you may think.
A study by the Opinion Research Corporation (pre-COVID) reported 37 percent of employees would sacrifice their vacation time or take a cut in pay to be able to take their pet to work. Moreover, 44 percent said they would consider leaving their current employer for one that offered a dog-friendly workplace, and 22 percent said they’d be more productive with a dog in the office.
And it’s not just dog owners who benefit from a dog-friendly office. Another study compared employee workgroups with a dog present to those without one. They found, “Behavior in dog-present groups was rated as more cooperative, comfortable, friendly, active, enthusiastic, and attentive.” In short, dogs make people nicer and easier to work with.
However, the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) reports that only 9 percent of companies nationwide allow dogs in the office. As workplace policies continue to evolve in our current uncertain environment, this may be the ideal time to revisit your pets-at-work policy and start viewing it as an employee benefit or component of your wellness program. It’s not just a perk anymore; in addition to the benefits noted above, allowing pets at work has been proven to boost morale, support mental health, and increase productivity.
There are many considerations to developing a pet policy and you can find more guidance here. Who knows, your interviews may start to include the words “sit” and “stay.”