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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dog-Friendly Workplaces:
Insight from an Insider

by Carrie Boyko

Dog-friendly offices are not exactly a commodity. Rarely do I encounter a business that has a dog on site, except for the occasional 'night guard'. This is definitely NOT the tree I'm barking up.  

In seeking to meet and talk with someone whose medium to large business has an open house policy for friendly dogs, I had only to mention this dilemma in front of my husband. After all the people I had spoken to, it turns out hubby is well-acquainted with our expert for this article.

My husband's long time friend, John Cassidy, has run Klutz publishing, as its co-founder, since its beginning. He graciously agreed to an interview on this arguably politically-confused topic. 

After pummeling John with a barrage of questions far too voluminous to publish, I decided to synopsize the interview in favor of the more useful questions that might help business owners that are considering such a venture.

As suspected, John shared the beginnings of his office's dog-friendly policy as a casual and fairly low-rules setup. When an employee with a well-behaved dog expressed interest in having his furry friend tagalong to work, John felt there was no particular reason not to okay it. From what he shared with me, it seems there was a pay off for the company throughout the years. Read on and I'll fill you in.

I was particularly interested to learn how problem situations were handled, when John passed it off as simply as "the HR lady took care of it with a probation, that passed without further incident." When I inquired as to the number of these incidents, he could only remember one--in all these years. And what, I asked, was the apparent problem? It was a  hyperactive pup that lost his office privileges. No surprise there.

While at times there were as many as 4 dogs in the office, they did not generally spend time together, but rather with their owners, a point that John felt was key to the success of the plan. His fairness doctrine considered dog owners as well as their counterparts, and assured that the dog-averse were respected equally by not being overwhelmed in a dog park-like environment.

Finally, John's comments about the pros of allowing dogs in the office were most enlightening:

"I think a dog in the office made a lot of people--probably most--feel as if management was on their side. More informal, more human, more family. We actually see tons of kids brought to work and they're a lot noisier...The benefits the dogs bring to the spirit of the place outweighs their liabilities."
"My bottom line is that a well-behaved dog, or even a few, brings a sense of benign management and family friendliness to a place that works to most everyone's benefit....Unless you have tight quarters and a whole passle of dogs, I'd suspect everyone's preferences could be met."

Well, John, I'd say "That's that! I think you hit the nail on the head."

My office has 3 dogs in it; how about yours? The comment link is at the bottom of the post. I look forward to hearing about your experiences. Or perhaps you'd like to learn more:

© Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved
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