Talent Retention T-Day: "Yes, Dogs Allowed!"

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you're probably already aware that I'm pretty pro-pet.  It's not that I don't understand or see the view point of communities that choose to not allow dogs or cats.  I do, and I think that the reasoning behind it is pretty sound.  But as a pet owner, I'm biased in my opinion, which is okay, because it's my blog and I'm allowed to be.

But this isn't a post about your pet policy for your renters.  Remember, it's a Talent Retention TDay, so we're talking about your employees and how to keep them on your payroll!  Looking to the great retainers of awesome talent, Google, one of the perks they offer is a pet friendly work environment.  They allow their employees to bring their dogs to work with them.  And Google isn't the only company that has breached the Pet Perks bridge with their employees.  Amazon and AutoDesk, as well as over 400 other companies, have given the thumbs up to woofers in the workspace after seeing some of the numbers that pet/work relationship research turned out.  In fact, a survey of dog owners on Simply Hired revealed that 66% of workers were willing to work longer hours if they could bring their dog to work.  55% said they would commute a longer distance to a job that allowed Fido under the desk.  But most of all, a whopping 49%, that's almost HALF for those of you who failed 3rd grade math, said they would SWITCH JOBS to be somewhere that was work pet friendly.  It's not all that shocking when you consider that pets are a multi billion dollar a year industry in the United States and that over 44million households have a dog (63%), which is more than double the number of households that have children (31%). 

Simply Hired even added to their job searching criteria the option of looking for a "dog friendly" work environment in 2006, and DogFriendly.com lists companies by city and state that will let you bring your buddy to work.   Most usually seen on the list are some of the places you might expect like vet offices, grooming salons, pet stores, and humane societies, but also some places you might not have thought of such as software companies, architectural firms, retail outlets, book stores, and real estate offices.  A piece on the  ABC news website tells this story:

One year ago Sarah Nagle arrived for her job interview at a New York architectural firm and was pleasantly surprised when she opened the door.

"I walked into the building and was greeted almost immediately by Larry, a four-legged regular at the Rockwell Group in Manhattan," she says.Sarah immediately felt at ease when Larry came running toward her, wagging his tail and looking for a new playmate. She says the encounter offered her a glimpse into the company and its personality.

"I knew this was a place where I wanted to work. It felt like family with having dogs run around," she says.

Benefits of animals in the workplace have been seen in every area from reducing stress to improving employee morale. In an ABC News article, the people at AutoDesk have even seen a lower rated of absenteeism in their employees.  “Companies with dog-friendly policies just get it. And they’re breeding a class of happy and loyal employees," said Ted Rheingold, CEO of Dogster. He continued, “After all, who wouldn't’t be happy working with their best friend?"

Indeed.  I work with my four legged best friend on a daily basis now, and I have to tell you that personally, I've found my stress is decreased, I'm able to work longer and be more productive and I'm more likely to take the breaks I need to take so that my mind can get rejuvenated and he can use the potty, instead of my old method where I would work at the computer until my eyes got all blurred and my brain got totally fried.

While this idea is a palatable idea for a corporate office environment and those lucky souls who live in cube farms, it's quite obvious that if everyone who worked onsite brought their pooch in, it might be more than a mess.  This perk does come with potential problems in any work place.  A CNN Money article from 2007 states, "Though having dogs around can brighten up the workplace, Google management realizes it can cause problems as well. "  And an article from www.boston.com where John Long, a member of PetSitters, says:

Of course, having dogs come to work has its share of challenges. Some people are allergic to dogs, and some are frightened of them. There's also the issue of potty breaks and cleanups, and of setting a professional tone.  Long says having dogs in the workplace goes smoothly when the company sets guidelines that everyone agrees on in advance and that address the potential problems. Dogs may be allowed in certain parts of the building, for example, or can come only on certain days.

So again, as it is with any perk, how do we translate this in to something that works for our industry.  In many of the studies that I looked at, a lot of work places saw the same benefits of increased work, more loyalty and lower absenteeism from places that might not have let their employees bring in a pet, but that let their offices have an office pet.  It's kind of an upgrade from the 3rd grade class hamster, and a whole lot less likely to die.  For some places, this is the manager's dog that they bring in everyday, or another designated employee's dog, and for other places it may be a pet that just lives in the space 24/7.  One of the best things about this idea is that it will not only work as a talent retention tool, but it also factors in as a resident retention tool.  There is something about dogs that people get very attached to, and it could be just on more leash that keeps that resident calling your community home.

Things to remember before you go dog-wild:

  • If you're going to do it, then do it right.  Make sure that the dog your choose is a low energy breed.  Golden retrievers and Labradors are especially nice for this.  (On a side note, border collies and Australian Shepards are smart as can be but require a LOT of energy and attention.  They are not the best choice for an office pet.)
  • Set firm rules from the outset.  If the pet is bothersome, gets fleas, messes, etc. you need to have already established that the dog has to go.
  • Understand that people do have allergies and take that in to major consideration when making the decision to move forward.  Ask your team and make sure that they're all on board with your choice.
  • Basic commands are a must!  Things like Sit, Stay, Lie Down, etc.  Without a well trained dog, you will lose productivity.
  • No matter how cute, nix the squeaky toys.  Rawhide will do nicely for chewing needs.
  • Make sure you have everything an office pet needs and the room to spare.   A doggy bed, water bowl, perhaps a food dish... this is all space and a bit of cash, so be sure you can proved a nice environment for your new pal.

Some of these and other great pet/work tips can be found at this site.

Does Size Really Matter? - Originally Posted with Appfolio's Property Manager E-Zine

"Let me tell you WHY I hate my apartment."