About three years ago, Criteria Corp made the decision to have a dog-friendly office. The decision wasn’t sudden or dramatic. It started with one or two people gradually bringing in their dogs, and it eventually turned into a more formal policy with tangible guidelines and rules. We love our dogs so much that we even started an Instagram account devoted to them!
A dog-friendly office is one of those perks that dog-lovers dream about. As employee benefits go, it’s obvious why it would be a crowd-pleaser: dog owners get to bring their dogs to work, making it easier to care for a dog while maintaining long work hours, and potentially saving pet owners from extra expenses like doggy daycare or dog walking services. Having dogs in the office is also a perk for non-dog-owners who get the benefit of playing with dogs without all the responsibility of caring for them full-time!
But dog-friendly work spaces aren’t always sunshine and rainbows. There are a couple of drawbacks that come with the dog-friendly package – issues with noise, bad behavior, poor training, lack of supervision, conflicts between dogs, the occasional accident, not to mention employees who may be allergic to dogs.
And Criteria’s road to dog-friendliness wasn’t without a few bumps along the way. Before we established a formal policy on expectations for dogs in the office, there were a few mishaps that really drove us to create a formal policy in the first place. The guidelines ultimately help both dog owners and other employees understand the expectations so that everyone can be as happy and productive as possible.
Going dog-friendly isn’t a simple decision, and it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons within your organization. But coming from one dog-friendly office that’s gone through the process, here are some of the biggest things our leaders learned along the way.
Josh Millet: Criteria Corp CEO
"We found that having dogs around helps the atmosphere immensely and improves the mood of their human owners. However, about half of our headcount is in customer-facing positions that involve frequent phone conversations, and so we have occasionally had challenges—especially on high dog-density days—with barking that creates distracting background noise. The compromise we’ve had to make is that owners need to be responsible for their dogs at all times, so that others aren’t having to police noise on behalf of their co-workers, which can create resentment. In general, our dog owners really like the privilege of taking their dogs to work and so do all they can to make sure their dogs behave."
Sara Zimmerman: Supervisor, Customer Success
"Since opening the office up to doggy companions, I’ve learned that dogs are distracting! But the distraction is healthy, the dogs gives you an opportunity to take a few minutes out of your day for something that is pure and good. Additionally, having dogs in the office has taught us to work better as a collective – each dog owner needs to be responsible for their own dog, but we take turns walking and watching each other’s dogs – it’s created a community within our company community. I do recommend establishing the dog rules before the first dog comes to work, and having a fresh supply of Nature’s Miracle! Otherwise, enjoy dogs in the office, they definitely provide more than they detract."
Patrick Blanton: VP of Customer Success
"Having dogs in the office is a part of company culture, but it also creates one of its own. How dogs interact with each other has to be managed, and it has to be consistent. If a new dog isn’t playing by the rules, and it continues, it can disrupt the entire setup.
Accidents will happen, have lots of enzyme spray…
I love that we can have our dogs in the office, it helps make the rough days better, and the good days great. If you have a bad meeting or call, the dogs are there to distract from that with a polite “excuse me, it’s time to throw the ball…”
If you don’t have a dog, and you’re interested, you can get your fix of having a pup without the commitment (or cleanup). Some of our team have family pets on the other half of the country, and being able to play with the other dogs helps lessen the separation."
David Sherman: Criteria Corp COO
"I’m happy we’ve created a dog-friendly workplace because:
- It’s a great perk that attracts great people;
- It makes coming to work more fun for everyone;
- There’s always someone to clean up if anyone drops any of our catered meals;
- I don’t have to feel guilty about leaving my dog alone at home all day;
- I have someone to ride to and from work with;
- My dog sleeps better at night after a day at the office;
- It leads to a more upbeat, friendly, and chill workplace;
- There’s always someone to play with.
And who could leave this at home alone during the day?"
Natalie Bernacchi: Manager, Customer Success
Having dogs at the office makes the atmosphere happier in general! People love dogs and it makes employees feel as though they can bring a piece of their life with them to work. Overall, it contributes to a higher level of employee satisfaction and happiness on a daily basis and so I am all for it!
We certainly think having a dog-friendly office is worth the effort, but ultimately it's a decision that should be approached with care and consideration based on the needs of your work environment.