For the love of dogs…and other pets
In early 2017, myself and another colleague asked Alun, one of our founder Directors, whether we could have an office dog. Despite promises that we would feed and walk it, as well as looking after it over the weekend, we were met with a very definite no. So you can imagine my shock some weeks later at the beginning of May 2017 when I was asked to implement an initiative for employees to bring their pets in…I was even more surprised when I found out it was Alun who had made the suggestion!
Tagging onto Bring Your Dog to Work Day, we launched the initiative for employees to bring their pet to work all year round. As you can appreciate, there were many considerations in the background as we agreed the finer details, such as how to manage allergies and phobias, how we could ensure we weren’t inundated with pets on one particular day and how we could ensure they didn’t make a mess. Having a strict visitation agreement putting the responsibility of the animal onto the owner to ensure the welfare of their pet (and clean up any little accidents), making sure one building is always animal free and booking pets in so we could keep track of who is coming in when, we were ready to launch.
Within minutes of the email going out, we were inundated with requests from employees wanting to bring their pets to work with them; we even received pictures with some requests in case that helped encourage us to say yes! Within a week of launching in mid-June we were booked up to the end of August. On Bring Your Dog to Work Day itself, we invited Bruce the Cocker Spaniel into work with his human Grace, our Marketing Lead. Quiet in nature and with big brown eyes, Bruce was the ideal candidate and was a model pet. He was a magnet for everyone in the office and dutifully accepted lots of fuss from everyone he met. When the steady stream of visitors quietened off, he took to his bed and promptly fell asleep.
Other members of the team have been coming forward with iguanas and pythons (yes, really!) that we never knew existed. Due to the distances from Stafford some of our employees live, it might be impractical for their pets to visit (Moe the elderly iguana is a good example of this) however we are really enjoying learning all about them. In addition to having pets in the office, we’re also featuring pet profiles in our weekly staff newsletter – this helps to involve our staff who are field based and can’t stop by for cuddles with the pets in the office, as well as ensuring that pets who can’t make it to Stafford don’t miss out. We’re also enjoying selfies of our home-based staff with their pets in their home offices!
Although it is a great perk to have, there’s also science behind it: the British Psychological Society tell us that interactions with pets can lower stress levels in the short term, contributing to our physical and mental wellbeing in the long term. From day one, we could see this in practice: as well as making people smile, it encouraged people to physically move from their desks to go and see the pets (getting breaks from their screens for a few moments). It also helped staff to identify commonalities with their colleagues (such as having similar pets), as well as encouraging conversations across teams, which helps to build relationships across the business.
As the months have progressed, we’ve had more dogs becoming regular visitors, and the system really manages itself; we have a number of people getting in contact regularly to book in their next few visits. For the HR Team, it’s now incredibly easy to administer, and almost every day, we come into work to a friendly canine face ready to greet us. We’re still working on branching out from dogs to other pets (assuming anyone has an alternative pet suitable to bring in) but for now we’re really pleased with our current visitors.
Corrine Ward, HR Advisor.