Ever wonder what it would be like to have your dog with you at work, nestled under your desk? If you needed a break from paperwork or phone calls, you could go outside for a relaxing walk or a game of fetch. Minor irritants would melt away when you looked into those adoring doggie eyes or heard that solid tail thump.
A surprising number and variety of businesses now recognize the added value of allowing dogs in the workplace, and not just on the annual “Take Your Dog to Work” day. Increasingly, what started out as occasional canine visits have grown into standard practice in offices around the country. Likewise, official pet policies are now part of many employee handbooks; the rules not only address proper pooch-related etiquette and behavior, they also provide non-dog people with assurance that their needs are taken into consideration.
But a document weighed down in legalese doesn’t explain the amazing transformation that can happen to a company and its people when dogs are welcomed. People who perhaps would never have met or spoken to one another are drawn to the dog in the cubicle or out in the parking lot. A shy person feels free to greet the dog and kneel down beside her for a friendly lick. A fearful person bravely reaches out a hand for the dog to smell, and delights in her cold nose.
And of course, those with dogs never tire of hearing compliments about their pups or seeing colleagues enjoy their company. Even more gratifying is the chance to field questions from curious non-dog people and to help them begin to understand why dogs matter. All of these encounters provide co-workers with opportunities to engage in face-to-face conversation, something that is increasingly rare in this technology-driven world.
We took a look at some of the companies that welcome dogs, and—once we recovered from our surprise at the number—decided to dig a bit deeper into a representative selection. Here are four stand-out examples of corporate American dog culture.
Drew Herdener’s long-time office mate is a beautiful blonde with a friendly personality. Sure, she spends more time socializing than she does working, but Herdener, Amazon’s senior public relations manager, still considers her to be an invaluable part of the team. He couldn’t imagine working without Dulce, his yellow Lab/Golden Retriever mix. Apparently, his colleagues feel the same way.
“Every day, she gets petted and praised by others,” says Herdener. “She has half a dozen or so very good friends who see her once a day. It’s really a community of dog lovers. There are probably three dozen people I know only because of my dog. Dulce is more social than I am, so she’s a nice ice-breaker.”
Approximately 24 to 36 dogs come to work at Amazon’s corporate headquarters, a 12-story former VA hospital in Seattle, Wash. Herdener says it’s not surprising that dogs would be allowed in this old Art Deco building, which dates from the 1920s. However, when they move to a brand-new downtown facility in a couple of years, he says it’s a foregone conclusion that the dogs will still be welcome.
In order to bring a dog, the employee must first register him/her and agree to certain rules and regulations. For example, all dogs are required to be up-to-date on vaccinations, housebroken and on-leash except when they’re in an office with the door closed or behind a baby gate.
Considering the number of dogs, there are surprisingly few skirmishes or co-worker complaints. “It comes down to common sense and common courtesy,” says Herdener. “Even people who don’t love dogs appreciate the policy because it makes it a more casual environment. When you go through the hiring process, it becomes clear what our corporate culture is. People make a choice—either they subscribe to it or they don’t.”
Besides helping forge new relationships, allowing dogs in the workplace also gives employees peace of mind. “We work long hours,” says Herdener. “If the dog was at home, you would run home quicker. The fact that you can bring her adds to productivity. As hard as you work, you do have time to pet or play with a dog. I love my job and I love this company, and I have to say that one of the reasons why is the fact that I get to have my dog by my desk.”