22nd June – Bring Your Dog to Work Day

It's Bring Your Dog to Work Day everyday at Westbury - but today we're using it as an excuse to celebrate our four-legged friends!

Today we celebrate Bring Your Dog to Work Day, a day which is highly significant because it outlines just how dramatic the changes to the modern-day workplace really are. A far cry from the Victorian workhouses which saw more than the odd lapse in health and safety, today’s workplaces are designed to inspire and encourage both productivity and well being, and the presence of pets at work is ever more commonplace; increasingly seen as a reflection of progressive employment policy in practice.

“We do the dog thing too you know”

Indeed, I was recently party to a conversation between two company owners where the one-upmanship was embarrassingly evident and centred solely around their policies of bringing dogs into work, each showing off about just how many dogs were currently garnishing their offices – forget bragging about your latest acquisition – it’s all about your canine quotas now.

And as a phenomenon driven by the pet-hungry millennials, it’s a trend that’s on the rise. In 2017 Reed.co.uk estimated that 8% of UK employees had permission to bring their dogs into work, a number which will almost certainly have increased over the space of a year.

Westbury's Morris

Westbury’s own Morris – who has territorial rights over the London office and is still working on the Essex showroom.

Dogs have rights too

Yes, times have changed – and rapidly. Only the other evening I was speaking with my own father about bringing dogs to work. As the owner/manager of a company, he was telling me with some shame that he has to take his chihuahua to work because in her poor health he can’t bear to leave her at home – and that she’s kept in an enclosure so that she doesn’t bother the rest of his staff.

Well I nearly fell off my chair – and not because my own dad takes his dog to work – but because I was stunned by the idea of a dog being cordoned off from everybody else. Lucky he’s the boss or that could be an HR issue – could this be a case of workplace discrimination against chihuahuas?

As I then explained the changing dynamics of the modern workplace, and how it’s the ‘done thing’ to let dogs roam free-range round offices, he found it hard to believe that pets are an increasingly accepted part of the workforce, and not just those of the owners. Indeed, the idea that work pets are largely free to wander offices at will, seemed positively alien to a man that still balks at the idea of a smart/casual dress policy.

Why employers are embracing the ‘dog thing’

Research shows that spending time with dogs relieves stress, reduces cholesterol and helps to boost mood and oxytocin (the love chemical) levels.  This helps to reduce the impact of stress at work and creates more positive interactions and indeed collaboration between workers and colleagues. Bringing dogs into work, also encourages workers to take small breaks and walks, which also aids productivity and relaxation. They also give those of us without dogs a chance to have some pet time without the burden of responsibility or the costs.

Well-known companies that welcome dogs at work include Nestlé, Google, Amazon, Etsy, Ben & Jerry’s, Mashable, Pets at Home and Build-a-Bear, with these corporate giants recognising that dog/pet-friendly policies help to attract and retain talent, with research published on glassdoor.co.uk finding that 82% of employees say they feel a greater loyalty to their company as a result of their pet-friendly policy.

Reggie and Woody dogs sleeping

Reggie and Woody basking in the sunlight that our stacking doors let in.

Of course there are drawbacks – pets do make unwanted noises, smells and sometimes damage, they can be a distraction, they do trigger allergic reactions and will have their own temperaments. In these instances, it is up to the company to devise a policy whereby owners can gauge whether their pet will fit into the company culture. Where this works out, it is widely seen as a company perk that more and more job candidates are using as a search when looking for work.

So for those companies which aren’t yet on board with the pets at work ethos, Bring Your Dog To Work Day helps to give employers and employees a taste of what it might be like – for better or worse. Companies can also donate to the cause by paying £50 to the Take Your Dog To Work website, meaning that money will be raised to support selected animal charities, and employees will be wrapped up in a cosy blanket of well being – for one day at least.