Dog lovers adore their pets and it breaks their hearts when they see haggard hounds languishing in animal shelters. Unfortunately it’s just not possible to take in all the dogs you’d like to (there’s only so much space in most homes) so in order to raise awareness and encourage dog adoption, Pet Sitters International started take your dog to work day (TYDTWD) in the United States in 1999.
The great thing about bring your dog to work day is that it really enables people who aren’t sure if they want a dog or not to discover just how amazing these loving companions are. Dogs make a huge difference in people’s lives and dog owners love having the chance to show the people around them what a rewarding experience it is having a relationship with one.
Interesting facts about the event
- First celebrated in the USA in 1999 with about 300 companies participating nationwide.
- Pet Sitters International founded the event as a way to celebrate the fantastic contributions that dogs make to their owner’s lives.
- Participating companies not only get to raise awareness of the plight of shelter animals but also have a great time doing it.
- It always happens on the Friday following Father’s Day.
- In order not to upset those who don’t have dogs but do have other pets “Take Your Pet To Work Week” was launched which is run over the week preceding the day itself.
- According to a national poll of working people in the US 17 percent of businesses regularly allow pets in the workplace.
- Employees who are allowed to bring their dogs to work are less stressed, generally happier and more productive.
- Studies have shown that having pets at work increases the bonds between employees and improves the quality of their interaction with each other.
On top of this a 2006 study conducted by APPA discovered that a large number of Americans feel that pets at work is a hugely positive thing. Here are some of the reasons they invoked:
- 55 million said that it makes for a more creative workplace.
- 50 million said that it helps colleagues get along with each other.
- 37 million said that it improves the relationships between managers and employees.
Additionally it has a positive impact on the business itself. Not only are businesses that get involved able to support the cause of pet adoption but there are other benefits like:
- Being seen to be more involved in the community around them.
- Building professional ties in the community with the sponsors and other participants.
- Show their staff that they genuinely care about what is involved in their life outside of the workplace.
- Employees see it as a definite perk and it is one that comes at nearly no cost to the business.
- Participating companies tend to get a lot of very positive media attention (and the media connections that come with that).
The reality of an event like this is that it has so much, incredibly positive impact on the team, customers and the business. Of course, there are some operational concerns that every business owner needs to take into account before decided to go ahead with participating.
What businesses need to plan
Before setting up an event there is a bit of leg work that needs to go into planning what’s going to be different when companies invite their employees to bring their pets into the workplace. It helps a lot for things to run as smoothly as possible if there is a dedicated coordinator who is in charge of making it all go smoothly on the day. It is also an extremely good idea to free them up from some of their ordinary duties so they can keep on top of everything.
Many businesses who are unable to free up the resources will arrange a professional pet sitter to be there on the day to support the coordinator. This keeps things running smoothly and means that team members who have their dogs with them don’t need to interrupt their daily duties to do things like take them out for a pit stop during the work day.
The next step is to work out how the company wants to mark the day. This really depends on the business and how far they want to go. Many companies simply allow pets in the office for the day while others will cease normal operations and have a mini-carnival.
While the idea of turning your office into a doggie runway may seem counter-productive, the benefits that businesses get from the huge amount of goodwill and involvement from the community outweigh any costs. Many businesses will theme the event and have people dress their dogs up a bit. This makes for a fun environment for everyone and also helps a lot with getting the media on board.
Once the logistics are under control and the business has planned how their event is going to play out it’s time to choose a local shelter or charity that is going to reap the rewards. One of the big driving forces behind TYDTWD is to support those who look after disadvantaged and abused animals.
The money that businesses contribute to shelters within their community is a huge help, and will save lives. Some companies have implemented a system where employees who wish to bring their pets to the office need to make a small donation, this kicks off the fundraising and gets everyone in the business really involved.
If it’s planned properly, allowing employees to bring their pets to work can have a hugely positive impact on both the business and the people involved with it. Of course there are things that can go wrong but a properly planned event can mitigate the impact of these. The old adage that what can go wrong, will go wrong is just as true as “never work with children or animals”, it’s important to get the whole company on deck when it comes to preparing for the event.
What can go wrong
Obviously places of business are not necessarily set up to house non-human inhabitants and there are plenty of things that can go sideways when you bring them into a working environment. Not all dogs are going to get on with each other and some are better trained than others.
It’s important to encourage employees to honestly ask themselves if their dog is going to be the right fit for the environment. In a large workplace you could end up with tens (or even hundreds) of dogs in the office and that is going to take a bit of preparation if you don’t want trouble. All it takes is a few ground rules being put in place. There are a few things that companies need to look at before committing.
What about employees who don’t like pets?
Companies have a duty of care to their employees, and that means that if you’ve got someone in the office that is afraid of dogs then allowances need to be made for them. This could be a case of designating parts of the office as dog free zones, perhaps a few people will need to swap desks for a day if things are open plan.
Keep the dogs on a leash
Except in the case where employees have their own work space like an office or a cubicle it is important that the ground rules tell them to keep their dogs on a leash. If you’ve got open cubicles that can be blocked off with a baby gate or something like that in the office then that’s a good way to get around the problem. If the office is an open plan space then it’s not quite as easy.
Bathrooms and dining off limits
Certain spaces in the office just can’t be divided up, like the toilets and the lunch room. Having dogs around food is not really sanitary so make a rule that they’re not allowed to go in. Additionally even dog lovers have their limits when it comes to them answering the call of nature personally so it’s best to ban the dogs from the lavatories.
Plan for problems
Different dogs are socialized to different levels and, especially if they’re from a single-dog home, they may react badly to being around a lot of people and other dogs. That means that there needs to be some allowances made for problem pups and for their owners to take them back to the house if there’s a problem.
Also be aware that if a dog is causing a problem then it needs to leave sooner, rather than later. That means it can’t always wait for the lunch break.
Doggy day care
If keeping disruption to a minimum is important in the business then it can be a really good idea to bring in a professional pet sitter. Choose a place in the office where the dogs can be housed during work times, perhaps a vacant office or conference room, and have the animals there during working hours. Be prepared for some dogs not to be comfortable in that environment though (see the previous point).
If the company owns the property then there is likely no issue with the pets coming to work, however in shared spaces like malls, business plazas and office buildings there can be a problem. It’s important to cross check with landlords, building managers and other stakeholders to make sure that pets will not cause a problem for the property.
Insurance and liability
The law states the pet owners are legally liable for any damage caused by pets under their control. However businesses can also be held liable for injuries or damage caused while on premises under control. It’s essential to check with insurers to make sure that liability insurance will cover this in the event that a dog damages something belonging to a visitor (or damages a visitor).
Allergic staff and guests
Pet hair allergies can be extremely serious and it’s important that this is covered with staff and also considered if you have a business that is regularly visited by outsiders. Dog owners should make sure that their pets have been bathed the day before to reduce dander and business owners need to make appropriate allowances for employees for whom this may be an issue.
Alternative ways to help
If a business is in the situation where one or more of these issues proves to be insurmountable there are other ways to get involved. Hosting a dog photo competition in the office is a great way to “have the dogs at work” without “having the dogs at work”. Alternatively businesses can just run a fundraiser. All of these ideas achieve the goal of raising awareness (and money) for shelter dogs.
Most businesses find that there is a way to get around all of these problems, that’s one of the reasons it is so important to appoint a coordinator. It’s very important for HR to be involved with the planning process as well and to make sure that they ask questions about dog phobias and allergies of all of the people in the office.
What employees need to plan
It’s really important, especially if a business is involved for the first time, that employees are given firm guidelines about how the day will work. Have human resources put together a guide and have it distributed to both dog owners and those who don’t own dogs.
The guide needs to summarize what’s happening and why and give everyone the opportunity to raise their concerns. A few things that need to be included in the employee guide are:
- A section that explains why employees are being allowed to bring their dogs to work for the day and what employees can do to contribute.
- A schedule of events that lets everyone know what will be happening and when.
- Details of which areas of the office will be dog-free zones.
- A preparation guide for dog owners that explains that dogs can’t come unless they’ve been bathed and all their shots are up to date.
- An explanation of what employees can do if their dog is a problem at the office and what allowances have been made for them to take their pup home.
- What the business is going to do to help puppy proof cubicles and what employees will need to take care of themselves.
- Instructions for employees who have phobias or allergies about who they need to talk to if they’ve got concerns and what allowances will be made for them.
Any dog owner is going to be excited to bring in their pride and joy and show him or her off to their friends and colleagues, but it is important that they plan it all out. Employees who have their pets in the workplace need to be professional, courteous and considerate.
That means that there are a few things they need to plan and consider about the day:
- Dog proof their environment by making sure that there are no electrical cords that can be chewed on, no toxic substances that Fido can get into while they’re not looking and that there is some sort of a barrier to stop their baby going roaming alone.
- Do a full puppy health check. Don’t bring their dog to the office if it is ill, if it has not been spayed or neutered and if all the required shots are not 100% up to date.
- If their dog has little “accidents” and is not 100% potty trained it’s probably best they stay home.
- If their dog is aggressive or very shy and is not comfortable in large groups of people or other dogs then don’t bring it in.
- If their dog is disobedient or poorly trained and they don’t have full control of it then it could be a nightmare.
- Plan their day around the fact that they’ve got a dog. What happens if they have to go and meet a customer for instance? If there isn’t a pet sitter on site then who is going to take care of the animal.
- Make sure they’ve got a selection of the dog’s favorite toys and treats to keep them calm during the day.
- Don’t pressure co-workers to interact with their dog. Some people just don’t like animals, be respectful of that.
A fun and successful event
At the end of the day, as long as all the employees and the business owners properly plan and prepare for the event it will be a raging success. That said, sometimes people have a little trouble seeing the 1000 foot view so it’s important that businesses provide all the necessary guidance on prepping poochy for their big day.
If it’s done properly it is going to make a huge difference to the business, the employees of the business and the community around the business