Hang on to your leashes and brace yourself for an onslaught of puppy-dog eyes: June 21 is national Take Your Dog to Work Day.
Welcoming pups in the workplace is not such a far-fetched concept for employers whose business mission aligns with being dog-friendly. McLean, Va.-based Mars Inc. is known as much for its pet food, such as Whiskas, Pedigree and Iams, as for its iconic candy brands Snickers, Milky Way and M&M's.
It offers feeding and boarding programs for the pets of employees who travel from some of its locations.
Its subsidiary Mars Petcare designed its new North American headquarters in Franklin, Tenn., to be the "pet-friendly workplace of the future," with customized pet beds and toy storage throughout the building, two indoor play areas staffed by pet sitters and a "pack leader," automated "slurp stations" at the coffee bars on every floor, and a Wi-Fi-enabled dog park.
Dogs are a part of the Tito's Vodka brand in Austin, Texas, whose company tag line is "Vodka for dog people," and the distillery works with nonprofit dog rescue organizations like Emancipet.
And Take Your Dog to Work Day is every day at Amazon. There can be as many as 6,000 dogs at the Seattle headquarters, which has a dog deck outfitted with dog-friendly water stations and a fake fire hydrant.
"Dogs in the workplace is an unexpected mechanism for connection," said Lara Hirschfield, Amazon facilities manager, in a company blog. "I see 'Amazonians' meeting each other in our lobbies or elevators every day because of their dogs."
Dog Days of November
One company took the concept of Take Your Dog to Work Day—created by Pet Sitters International in 1999—and stretched it into a monthlong observance. Sigstr, a tech marketing firm in Indianapolis, allowed its 70 employees to bring their canine companions to work throughout November 2018. Employees suggested the idea, and the company surveyed workers on their interest and comfort level with the initiative before implementing it. The concept has since evolved into a year-round rule allowing one person per day to bring in a dog.
Emily Wolfington, Sigstr's director of talent, recommended employers be flexible when instituting pet-friendly policies—which could mean, for example, allowing someone with pet allergies to work from home when a dog is on the premises. She advised HR to delegate a sponsor for this benefit.
"I'm a team of one [in HR], and this dog initiative is lower on my to-do list. If it doesn't work, that's OK."
Among Sigstr's guidelines: No dog is allowed when clients or board members visit, and a furry friend may be sent home if it poses a distraction or causes other problems.
"It's been a very easy initiative for us because we've done a good job of setting expectations. Team members understand this is a privilege and can be taken away at any time," Wolfington said.
Employers should be aware of the "one-bite rule," a governing principle in most jurisdictions, said Joshua S. Bauchner, partner at Ansell Grimm & Aaron law firm in the New York City area.
"If a dog has bitten in the past, the owner is on notice that it can happen again and subject to strict liability," he said. "By inviting the dog into the workplace, the employer reasonably may assume that liability for failing to ask if the employee's dog has a record and by failing to take other necessary precautions."
Greeter at Slice
Slice Communications, a media agency in Philadelphia with 15 employees, has at least one dog in the office every day, and sometimes as many as three.
"It's a welcome treat not just for our employees, but for all visitors to our office," said Giulia Umile, chief operating officer. Her French bulldog, Polpetta, welcomes guests and is often tagged in social media posts and mentioned in e-mails.
Having dogs at work "just instantly changes the mood," but she said dogs are expected to be up-to-date on all shots and friendly with people and other dogs. The company also reserves the right to update its policy as necessary, as it did when an intern's rescue dog had one too many "accidents."
But Umile knows of no negative effects of being a dog-friendly workplace on hiring or retention, instead believing a dog-friendly office relaxes people.
"We've yet to encounter an allergy [issue] but would certainly make adjustments to make sure everyone is safe, even if that meant less-frequent dog visits," said Jenna Saponaro, Postali's chief of staff.
Thinking of helping your company go to the dogs? This checklist can help you get started.
Dogs of SHRM
If you can't bring your dog to work, the next best thing is to share pictures. Here are the Dogs of SHRM—we hope you enjoy these images of our very good boys and girls as much as we do at the Society for Human Resource Management!