Who Let The Dogs Out?

WARNING: The following reflects our extreme biases. We are unapologetic.

In a recent Gallup study of 7,500 full time employees, 23% said they were often or always burned out from work and another 44% reported feeling burned out at times. Gallup’s chief scientist for the study said that the resulting costs to employers in absenteeism and turnover is enormous. The Harvard Business Review estimates that the significant impact of work-related stress on employee health and the associated health-care costs are well over $100 billion annually.

We have the answer: pet friendly offices. Take a look around your office right now and ask yourself this: would you rather be hanging out with Bob from Accounting or Riley the Retriever?  While both may scratch themselves more than you’d like, the comparison ends there. Riley is fiercely loyal. Bob, not so much. You call Riley, he comes running. Bob hasn’t moved fast in years. Bob causes stress. Riley relieves it.  

Although only about 8% of U.S. workplaces allow our furry friends, the number continues to grow as employers learn the benefits of making every day Take Your Dog to Work Day.  Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, for example, hosts over 1,000 dogs daily and even provides water fountains for the pups right beneath the human versions, so that owner and doggie can drink together. Bathroom breaks are still separate, at least for now.

A recent study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health concluded, “One potential benefit of dogs in the workplace is that they… buffer individuals from stress [leading to] …lower levels of depression and better job performance…” Employers with pet friendly offices report higher employee morale, attendance and retention. Employees with pets also tend to stay at work longer because they don’t have to worry about getting home to care for their buddy. Recruiters have also found that letting in the hounds can be an important hook for quality candidates, which includes touting the savings achieved on dog walkers or doggie daycare.

There are some legal issues to consider. Even if you have no interest in a pet friendly office, service dogs and emotional support animals must be considered for applicants and employees with disabilities. Unlike the public accommodation provisions, the Americans with Disabilities Act sections concerning employment provide no guidance on employer obligations. So we are left with the same interactive process and reasonable accommodation analysis we do for any other potential accommodation. That means, employers need to determine whether having a service dog or emotional support animal in the office will be an undue hardship. Among the variables to consider are the impact of the animal’s presence on business and co-workers. But unless the animal is disruptive, it would be difficult for an employer to demonstrate an undue hardship based on a loss of revenue attributable to the presence of a service dog or emotional support animal.

When it comes to service or support animals or just a pet friendly office, there may be employees with phobias, allergies or a dislike of dogs that must be considered. Our solution: Don’t hire such people!  But if you already have them in your midst and want to go dog friendly anyway, here are some Pointers. Although allergies are not a disability, designating dog-free zones and using Hepa filtered air purifiers is a good call. A policy requiring that the four-legged ones have all their shots and socialize well with each other and humans is critical to ensuring that going furry doesn’t do more harm than good. Because howling during conference calls might be bad for business and co-worker concentration, there must be some discrimination on the basis of temperament and behavior. And while some employees might resent that their dog-owner colleagues are distracted by having their best friend in the office and they take time to attend to their needs, to them we say: Poop happens. Deal with it.

Just think about this: You have a stressful conference call with client Cruella and you grab Corky the Corgi and put her on your lap for a few minutes to calm down. Good news: Corky isn’t going to sue you for sexual harassment. #WoofWoof.

Take Your Dog to Work Day is June 21, 2019.