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How did bring your dog to work day become a thing?

Jana Kasperkevic Jun 22, 2017
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Dogs share the aisle with employees at DogVacay's offices in Santa Monica, California. Employees of the company, known as an Airbnb for canines, share office space with their own and others' dogs.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Marley loves going to work. It means that she gets to see her friends, sleep on the job and most importantly, spend more time with her human, Kristin Daversa. Granted, the yellow lab may not be the most productive employee, but she is a welcomed addition to the staff at Huge Inc., a digital agency based in Brooklyn where everyday is a take your dog to work day.

“As long as they are well-behaved, friendly and housebroken, dogs of all shapes and sizes are welcome in our Brooklyn office,” said Daversa, who is the vice president of talent at Huge. “They are an integral part of our culture. They attend meetings, participate in photo shoots and go on walks together to the Brooklyn Bridge park dog run. Our social club, Huge Paws, coordinates dog training sessions, birthday parties and keeps a freshly stocked doggie treat cart in the office to keep them entertained.”

For Daversa and Marley, having the flexibility to spend the day together at work is a great perk that’s offered by just a fraction of U.S. employers. Last year, about 7 percent of employers allowed pets in the workplace — down from 8 percent in 2015 but up from 4 percent in 2014, according to the SHRM 2016 Employee Benefits report.

Marley dog at work

Marley hard at work at Huge Inc in Brooklyn, New York. 

For companies thinking about welcoming pets in their offices, today — national Take Your Dog to Work Day — is the perfect opportunity to test drive the idea. When it was first introduced in 1999 by Pet Sitters International (PSI), people were a little skeptical, according to PSI president Patti Moran.

“The idea was first inspired by Take Your Daughter to Work Day. We thought a similar day was a great idea because we knew so many pet owners see their dogs as surrogate children,” Moran said last year. “We believed the idea had merit but it was a tough sell convincing other businesses that the Day could be a great morale booster for employees and help promote local pet adoptions. For the first few years, we spent countless hours calling companies around the country, pitching the idea and encouraging them to participate. It was truly a grassroots effort.”

The initial premise was that dog owners would get to spend more time with their pets while at the same showing their dogless coworkers what great companions they were, thus convincing them to adopt. About 300 companies ended up participating in the inaugural event in 1999. While PSI has been unable to track how many companies have participated in the years since, the company says the holiday has grown in popularity and happily takes responsibility for an increase in the number of pet-friendly offices.

“We’ve found that companies that participate — even those initially concerned about having dogs at work — have such a great time that they want to participate year after year,” Beth Stultz, vice president of marketing and operations at PSI and the spokesperson for the Take Your Dog To Work Day, told Marketplace. “Because of this participation, many companies may have realized the benefits of dogs at work, and the ease at which pet-friendly policies could be implemented with prior preparation and basic policies. The pet-friendly workplace trend has certainly grown dramatically since PSI first introduced Take Your Dog To Work Day!”

dogs office Interior Department

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (R) and his dog Ragnar greet an employee and her dog in Zinke’s office on May 5, 2017 at the Interior Department in Washington, DC. The Interior Department held its very first Take Your Dog to Work Day event earlier this year. 

With dogs going off to work with their owners today, do pet sitters get to have a day off?

“Professional pet sitters and dog walkers are typically busy year round, so while I’m sure many would welcome a vacation day, take your dog to work day certainly doesn’t mean a decrease in pet-sitting requests,” said Stulz. Some employers hire pet sitters for the dogs that come into the office while others invite pet sitters to speak at lunch events about pet-care and pet adoption, keeping up with the mission of the day.

However, having your furry friends come with you to work is not all fun and games. As pet-friendly offices have grown in popularity so have workplace issues related to the furry animals, according to Alison Green, the manager behind the popular Ask a Manager blog. Some of the dog-related questions that she has tackled over the years include: Is it ok to name your dog after you manager? What to do when your boss leaves her dogs in her car? Do pets belong in job interviews?

“The most interesting was probably from someone who went to work in an office that was dog-friendly and a bunch of people brought their dogs in and she had really debilitating allergies,” Green said in an interview with The Guardian last year. “The company did not want to work with her on it and legally they had to accommodate her. But people were pissed. People felt like they had come to the company specifically because it was dog friendly and she was ruining it. It became a very hostile environment for her. She ultimately had to leave over it because there was such a huge clash of her interest against their interests. You can kind of see where they are coming from too — it’s their culture.”

Turns out, pet-friendly policies are not a perk many workers take lightly. About 82 percent of employees said that being able to bring their pet to work evoked greater sense of loyalty to their employers, according to a 2016 study by Banfield Pet Hospital. That same survey found that 79 percent of human resource managers discuss pet-friendly policies when recruiting employees and about 65 percent of job candidates ask about such policies.

This shouldn’t be surprising considering that to many Americans their dogs are more than a pet — in a 2011 Harris poll, 90 percent of respondents said their pets were part of a family.

If, while reading those statistics, you were mumbling to yourself about millennials, you would not be completely wrong. Having a pet-friendly office is important to workers across generation, but especially to younger workers, according to a new survey by Wellness Natural Pet Food. About 57 percent of millennials said this was an important workplace benefit, compared to just one third of Gen X and baby boomers.

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