On any given day, Lebowski can be found roaming the halls of Toronto’s Softchoice Corp., getting belly rubs from employees, delivering mail to his boss, Robbie Eddison, and stealing treats from neighbouring desks. It should be said that Lebowski is a dog. A gregarious, 61-kilogram bullmastiff.
On June 21, offices across the country will open their doors to four-legged companions to celebrate International Take Your Dog to Work Day. But at Softchoice’s Liberty Village office, dogs are a permanent fixture. As many as 20 pooches report for work on an average day. Call it an inexpensive perk—cheaper than a gym membership—that goes a long way toward improving the physical and mental health of employees. “Petting dogs has a far more calming effect on stressed employees than stress balls,” says Ryan Holmes, CEO of HootSuite, whose dog Mika is one of several at the company’s Vancouver office.
“Employees are generally happier with a dog in the workplace,” says Liz Palika, author of Dogs at Work. So happy, they may even be willing to take a pay cut to work for a dog-friendly company: a survey conducted by Modern Dog magazine revealed that 65% of readers would take a job for less money if it meant they could bring their dog to work.
While opponents of dog-friendly workplaces might say pooches are a distraction to employee productivity, Palika says the opposite is true. “Employees often volunteer for overtime because no one needs to rush home to walk the dog,” she says. And what about allergies and those who simply don’t like dogs? Of the half-dozen dog-friendly offices we reached out to, all agreed that creating a dog-free zone and policies around appropriate doggie behaviour has quelled any dog fights. Case in point: with a staff of 1,700, EA Canada has 190 registered dog owners and offers many canine accommodations. “We have a designated off-leash area and provide complimentary poo bags,” says senior director Frank Bassett, whose long-haired dachshund, Digby, accompanies him to work. “We also have on-site pet grooming quarterly, and treats in reception so the dogs can get a bone on their way in or out.” Clearly, the workplace perks go both ways.