How Canine Inclusivity is Shaping the Future of Work

For many companies, it's bring your dog to work day, every day! Let's break down the substantial rewards (and potential risks) of this new wave of canine inclusivity.

How Canine Inclusivity is Shaping the Future of Work
Pet-friendly policies can help boost workplace well-being, energy, and collaboration.

Gone are the days of strict no-pet policies in the workplace. Many forward-thinking companies are eagerly opening their doors to our four-legged friends, recognizing the numerous benefits of having dogs around the office. Some of the worlds most well known organizations have strong pet-friendly office policies including Amazon, Google, Bissell, VMware, and Ben & Jerry's.

Just as dog-friendly campuses have been attributed to greater mental health outcomes, the presence of pets in the office has been linked to enhanced workplace camaraderie, reduced stress levels, and a much more fulfilling and supportive culture. It's not just about creating a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere; it's also a strategic move in company branding to attract and retain top talent over the long term. Happily the top talent, if they must be forced back into the office, increasingly wants to go to work with their dogs!

Paws-itive Office Outcomes

As we can all attest, the workplace is almost always synonymous with stress. The constant pressure to meet deadlines, multitask, and navigate office culture dynamics can take a toll on employees' mental health. Dog friendly workspaces can directly mitigate the recurrent work-life woes and increase employee satisfaction and company-wide engagement. To get a firsthand glimpse into the joy and comfort of dog-friendly workspaces, check out Fi's array of office dogs, which transform the in-office work environment into a much more inviting, paws-itive, and relaxed place to punch in for the day.

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With easy access to treats, dog beds, and plenty of canine cuddles to be found at the turn of your desk chair, it's no wonder that the dog friendly office initiative correlates to greater satisfaction, collaboration, and enthusiasm among teams.

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Most dog lovers will find this positive impact unsurprising given the invaluable emotional support our pets provide us at home. So much so that what we all look forward to most after a long work day is coming home to our canine companion. As such, the appeal to bring pups with us to work instead of guiltily leaving them at the door each morning is incontestable. Notably, one LiveCareer study found that a decisive 94% of people were supportive of pet-friendly offices.

Further, the social benefit of canine companionship in group settings has been reaffirmed by recent research, which notes the "oxytocin positive feedback loop between dogs and humans." This social support function not only mitigates anxiety, depression, and burnout but can help influence "long-term relationships in communities."

For companies looking to revamp their return-to-office (RTO) initiative and transform their organizational culture, making a dog-friendly headquarters is a surefire way to generate some positive press and attract applicants. That said, a dog-friendly office is only successfully implemented through a flexible, feedback-oriented work culture that can contend with the potential hurdles via clear policies and planning.

Potential Risks

According to an American Heart Society survey on WFH trends, about half of employers were considering allowing employees to return to the workplace with their dog in tow. Despite the high demand for pet-friendly workplaces (especially within the Millennial and Gen Z demographics), some potential concerns keep management wary of changing their no-pet policies.

The most obvious of which is allergies. 10-20% of people worldwide are allergic to dog hair. Consequently, many people leaders may rightly worry about pet-friendly policy shifts icing out current (or prospective) employees with a dog allergy (or phobia). These considerations are valid and require open lines of communication within teams about personal preferences, concerns, and requests regarding the ideal office environment. Like most things in life, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and it's important to consider each unique voice when trying to instill a harmonious and inclusive workplace.

Another sore spot for management on canine inclusivity in the workplace is the fact that research into the effects of dog-friendly offices is still very young. In part, this may result in leadership viewing pet-friendly policies as a leap of faith – reinforcing existing hesitations until more quantitative data is garnered. However, the lack of large-scale studies should not be misconstrued as evidence against the benefits of canine inclusivity but as an opportunity for businesses to stay ahead of the curve with pilot programs or company surveys that gather qualitative feedback from employees about their experiences with canine companions in the workplace.

Finally, a commonly raised note of discontent is that having one's dog in the workplace would create too many distractions. To dispel this worry, one may rightly draw attention to the rise in remote work and productivity. Those who work from home are surrounded by their pet(s), and yet, their performance does not plummet as a result. In fact, 77% of working professionals say that they are more productive working remotely than in the office – a takeaway that multiple pandemic-era studies have reaffirmed, citing remote work productivity averaging 7% higher than in-office productivity.

All of which is to say that the stubborn managerial myth that remote work correlates to less motivated and hardworking teams widely overlooks how promoting health and wellness initiatives (like canine-inclusive offices) benefits not only long-term productivity and organizational culture but also employee retention.

The Future of Work

The name of the game when it comes to the future of work is inclusivity. As one of the top priorities for Millennials and Gen Z, this influential goalpost marks an overwhelming pivot away from the inflexible and rather uninviting corporate sphere of yesteryear. Such is to say, the future of work demands more honest discussion about work-life balance and how to make the office a place of greater comfort and social collaboration, not contention and stress.

In this context, canine inclusivity arises as a symbol of this larger commitment to fostering a workplace that allows individuals to bring their authentic selves to the professional arena and provides the framework for long-term success not cycles of burnout and exhaustion. Structuring the day with mindful breaks is a hallmark mental health tactic and having a dog by your side can naturally imbue these breaks into your work schedule (ex. routine walks, a game of fetch, canine social hour, etc).

Further, amidst the ongoing WFH versus RTO debate, BYDTW (Bring Your Dog to Work) likens itself quite well to both work models or, rather, carves out a third, new model altogether that meets the demands of the modern workforce: flexibility, inclusivity, and a sense of belonging and comfort. As research in this area continues to progress, it is likely to quickly reinforce the notion that canine inclusivity, when done thoughtfully, can be a defining factor in creating a more accepting and inspiring (and, of course, dog-loving) future of work.

On that note, how does your canine companion fit into your work life? Would you prefer your employer to have a dog-friendly office? Drop your thoughts below!