Bring Your Dog to Work Day: Distraction or Productivity Booster?

Published: Nov 05 | 2019
Modified: Jun 15 | 2020

It’s no secret that Benefits by Design is a fan of the “bring your dog to work day” concept (the evidence is on the Instagram page), and that we love our Friday dog days. They bring a smile to our faces and their exuberance and general excitement is infectious, giving our employees a boost and a good laugh.

However, there’s plenty of discussion online about whether or not bringing dogs into the workplace is more of a distraction to employees than anything else. There are also a few Human Resources (HR) and employer liability considerations to take into account.

As a workplace that’s been bringing dogs in for years, we feel like we have something to contribute to this discussion. Although it’s been a few years since we first introduced the concept to each of our offices across Canada, we’ve learned quite a few lessons along the way, and we’re ready to share.

Where Did this All Start?

Pet Sitter’s International (PSI) is largely credited with the founding of the first “international take your dog to work day” in 1999. Since then, the number of workplaces allowing pets in the workplace has grown to about 8%.

We’re proudly amongst that number and have found our office dogs have become a part of our workforce. They make the rounds and sniff around, say hi to all the employees and give them short mental breaks (proven to increase productivity) and encourage employees to take them on short walks (also proven to increase productivity and wellbeing). Sure, their job may sound easy compared to some, but they work hard to ensure other employees are happy!

Question of the Day: Distraction or Productivity Booster?

Frankly there’s evidence for both and ultimately it will be up to employers to decide, just as we did. Here’s what we found out when we dug deeper:

Evidence for the Productivity Booster

Office dogs wander around greeting employees and offer them opportunities for breaks from work (such as the mental and physical breaks mentioned above), but they also increase job satisfaction and employee retention. They can reduce employee stress (there are therapy dogs devoted to this task alone) and boost employee morale. Generally speaking, people like the idea of office dogs and employers who welcome their furry pals are more likely to retain and attract top talent and have happier, engaged employees.

Evidence for the Distraction

A lot of this will depend on the workplace and how successfully they can put rules around bring your dog to work day (see below), but the distractions are exactly what you’d expect: barking, running around, stealing food, and accidents. There may also be considerations for employees with allergies or those who aren’t fond of dogs.

If employers do their due diligence ahead of time and confirm it’s a good fit for their workplace, bring your dog to work day can be a great productivity booster!

5 Tips for a Successful “Bring Your Dog to Work Day”

Ultimately, employers will need to decide for themselves, but since we’re huge advocates for dog days, we’ll provide some tips for those employers who decide to run with it. Here’s what we’ve learned through our own experiences:

#1. Limit the number of dogs allowed. Our limit is two – anymore than that and we’ve found things can get a bit crazy. Have a sign-up sheet for employees to sign their pups up and stick to it.

#2. Give them something to do. Encourage pet owners to bring toys, treats, food, and to set up water dishes for their furry friends.

#3. Accidents happen – be prepared. Dog bags and carpet cleaning products are a must have, because house-trained or not, accidents happen.

#4. Be aware of employee allergies and feelings. You don’t want to alienate employees, so it’s important to be aware of employees with allergies or those who aren’t fond of dogs. Consider setting up a “no pet zone” in the office if needed.

#5. Check your lease. Some leases don’t allow for pets and could get you in hot water. Confirm your lease agreement or talk to landlord about bring your dog to work day.

Want to see bring your dog to work day in action?
Check out our Instagram page!

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