Britain’s love affair with dogs manifests itself in a variety of outlets, from the public’s inexplicable fascination with Crufts to their ubiquity in popular culture; Churchill insurance advert, Andrex puppy, omnipresent Blue Peter canine. Slew of social media cutesy clickbait.
Despite man’s affinity with His Best Friend however, the majority (82 per cent) of UK workplaces don’t let dogs, or any pets at all, in the office. However, according to the study by Purina, Nestlé’s pet food company, half of Britons would happily take their dog to work if allowed.
Those that do partake seem to value the experience. Christina Richardson, co-founder of marketing-tech company Openr, has a resident office dog named Rox that comes into work three days a week.
‘It’s a small, dynamic team and as a young company it can be a high-tempo, hard-working environment. What the dog brings is a welcome moment of calm when you’re stuck staring at a problem that you don’t know how to fix, or have a writer’s block,’ Richardson says.
‘For the whole staff, a moment of doing high-fives with Rox gets you out of that lull and back on track, so (while I’m biased since she is my dog) she adds something to the team.’
Star of the show
So much so, Rox has earned her own team page on the company site and will be involved in the Christmas social campaign after becoming a hit with Openr’s users.
Schnauzer Izi is a full-time resident at the The Alternative Board, which offers business coaching services. Marketing manager Suzanne Bell says she only got the mutt because the business allowed her to bring Izi to work.
‘A colleague and I bullied our managing director into letting us have an office dog; clearly we won and Izi became a valuable part of my work and home life,’ Bell says.
Now, the dog has been with the company for six years and is deemed a great asset to the 7-person office.
‘While I love my job, being able to bring Izi to work is certainly the best staff retention tactic for me; where else could I take her to work?’
Bell says the company has regular visitors who love the idea of a company dog, creating a positive talking point.
Luckily, visitors or staff with an aversion to dogs have been rare. ‘Fortunately schnauzers are hypo-allergenic so there’s little risk of staff or visitors having problem with dog hair,’ Bell says. ‘We’ve only ever had one visitor in six years where we had to keep Izi out of the room.
‘The nature of the dog clearly has a huge influence; Izi is calm and relaxed. it might be very different if she was a spaniel [for example].’
Perk of the job
When it comes to choosing a job, Britons would love to bring their furry friend to the office with two in five (38 per cent) considering it a work perk, according to the Purina study. This is particularly attractive for Millennials as half (47 per cent) of 18-24 year olds see having pets in the office as an incentive to work somewhere.
Isabel Suddek, a marketing executive at PR platform Journolink, is permitted to bring her chihuahua Oscar to work. She says it’s great for team morale in the office and doesn’t distract the team from their work.
‘I wouldn’t say I am more or less productive when he is in the office, but he is a great companion during business meetings outside of the office. For example, I meet a lot of business owners at a dog-friendly coworking space in the City, and it means I am more approachable in that environment and it’s easier to do my job, which is promoting my company.’
Apart from the fun and affection pets bring, more than a quarter (28 per cent) believe having dogs in the workplace boosts health and wellbeing, while a third (31 per cent) say it improves morale and motivation at work.
Suddek identifies with this; she finds taking Oscar for a walk at lunchtimes particularly rewarding. ‘I’m sure that affects my motivation and productivity levels throughout the rest of the day.’
The Pets At Work programme at City Place, Gatwick, prides itself on being the first dog-friendly Nestlé HQ in the world. The initiative resulted in the creation of a dog-friendly office environment in an open plan workplace, with capacity for 1,000 employees, where employees and dogs can work together in a happy and safe environment.
Richard Watson, regional director of Purina, believes that people and pets are better together, and being at work should not stand in the way of that.
‘It boosts employee morale, encourages more physical activity and helps us create a stimulating environment where our people are happy, have fun and can perform at their best,’ he says. ‘Having pets in the office is inspirational.’