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Features July 2017 Issue

Is Bringing Your Dog to the Office a Good Idea?

Benefits for the pooch, benefits for the person.

Mo looks over some notes at a Carlat Publishing staff meeting from the lap of the company’s executive editor, Janice Jutras. His “dad,” Jeff Ives, stands opposite.

Carlat Publishing in Newburyport, Massachusetts, puts out newsletters and books for psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, but probably nobody in the company knows as much about psychology as office mate Mo. At no more than a pound or so, the tiny nine-year-old Chihuahua, who belongs to chief operating officer Jeffrey Ives, puts a smile on everyone’s face by coming over to their desks to be petted, cooed over, and marveled at as he makes little play bows and generally acts more adorable than shoud be legal. His “sessions” with people don’t last too long, but they do a world of good. His instincts are always on the mark.

It’s a similar story at the nonprofit writers group GrubStreet in Boston. Murray the Basset hound has that breed’s quintessential sad-sacky face and long droopy ears, but when his “mom,” Director of Programs and Marketing Alison Murphy, brings him in, he makes everyone anything but sad-sacky. Staff members hang out on the floor with him, walk him on Boston Common when he needs some fresh air, and enjoy his velvety presence in general.

It’s not surprising. “He loves to socialize,” say Ms. Murphy. “His favorite thing is to run down the hallway and visit each classroom, saying ‘hi’ to all the students.

“And while he’s always been emotionally attuned to me,” she adds, “it’s been fun to see how he’s started to become emotionally attuned to my coworkers and students as well; in one of the classes I teach, he sat next to one of my students the entire class with his face next to her hand and refused to leave her side. She looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, ‘I had to put my dog to sleep this week. I think he knows.’

“Bringing Murray to work has become a favorite part of both of our routines — it’s made my work days better, and I’ve noticed that his energy is always better on days when he accompanies me rather than stays at home. I’m lucky that my coworkers love him, too — the first thing I hear when walking in the door without him is usually, ‘where’s Murray?’”

Mo, too, benefits from coming to the office, in addition to making others feel good. He has advanced-stage congestive heart failure, and by bringing him to work, Mr. Ives can keep an eye on him and lift his spirits rather than leave him home to bide time by himself.

Mo and Murray are part of a growing trend. While Take Your Dog to Work Day was officially celebrated on June 23rd this year (it’s always the Friday after Father’s Day), every day is Take Your Dog to Work Day for some people as more and more offices discover that a canine presence makes for happier people in addition to happier dogs. But does it make the people more productive, or does it distract them?

A better bottom line

Companies are increasingly realizing that pets at work not only make for a more congenial atmosphere but also leave workers more inclined to work longer and more focused hours. Research backs them up. One study, conducted by a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, found that allowing dogs at the workplace decreases the cortisol levels of the people on site, which suggests a decrease in stress. That’s critical. Stress is known to contribute to employee absenteeism and burnout, which spell a loss in productivity.

Dogs at work improve people’s personal bottom lines, too. Hiring a dog walker to take a pet out in the middle of the day can cost $15 per half hour in some parts of the country. That’s $75 a week for full-timers.

Seeing the benefits all ways around, big companies like Amazon, Petco, and Etsy are getting in on the act. Even dog treats, play areas, grooming, walkers, and other perks are offered at some firms. It all makes sense in light of a recent Banfield Pet Hospital survey of employees and human resource workers from a number of companies in the United States, which showed overwhelming favor of pets in the work place. In all, 88 percent of those participating in the survey stated their belief that pets improve work morale; 82 percent stated that they felt more loyalty toward companies that are pet-friendly; and 86 percent stated their belief that dogs in the workplace reduce stress.

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