Dogs in the Office Are Great, but Both Tech and Design Could Get in the Way

If dogs are mankind’s best friend, it’s a little sad that office jobs typically require leaving them home all day long. It’s often less than practical, too; pets often end up spending all day locked in a crate while the owner worries for their wellbeing. Even the addition of nanny cams and other smart home tech can’t really replace in-person presence.

It’s unsurprising, then, that more and more companies are starting to allow dogs in the workplace. While at first thought this might prompt images of raucous Great Danes distracting co-workers and barking at the slightest provocation, it can often work well. Dogs in the office come with plenty of upsides, including benefits for individuals and employers alike. They lead to better outcomes for people with mental illness, and can help engage a Millennial labor market, for instance.

Amazon might be the company most famous for its pet-friendly policy, proudly proclaiming that their headquarters are frequented by as many as 7,000 dogs; plenty of other pet products companies have also made strides towards pet-friendliness. Pets in the office is one area where larger size might make things harder to manage; consider the difference between setting a “dog policy” for a team of 1,000, or even 100, versus a small office with 10-20 people.

But plenty of other great articles have talked about the broad strokes of pets in the workplace; the liability risk, allergy concern, and emotional impacts, along with some solutions. Some other points should be made, particularly in regards to office tech and design trends. First, the open office layout has its own downsides for on-site dogs. Less private offices and cubicles to break up the workplace means more dogs out in the open, potentially becoming stressed or excited more frequently. It’s one thing if your pet can camp out behind a closed door or under a desk in a quiet cube. It’s another when you’re working at a hot desk next to a dozen coworkers, some of whom may have their own pets as well. This could magnify the challenges of focus and disrupted productivity that open offices are already known to cause.

Dogs could potentially impact accuracy for IoT systems, as well. Some sensors measure things like motion and body temperature, meaning that adding a potentially large dog to a given space might disrupt accurate readings.

There’s one more challenge that managers should consider. Some office perks will more or less always be there. Barring a major redesign, the coffee shop in the building isn’t going anywhere; nor is the gym. But “soft” perks like allowing pets in the building can easily go away; all it would take is one lawsuit. If allowing dogs in the first place is primarily a strategy to bring in more highly-qualified workers and increase job satisfaction, consider the reputational harm of having to take away a beloved perk.

None of these are reasons to completely write off a pet-friendly office policy. Dogs bring tremendous joy to the majority of people and, as long as they’re well-behaved, can fit in well in a workplace; case in point, Amazon’s track record. But nevertheless, pet-friendliness is certainly on the disruptive end of perks, and with that, it deserves careful consideration before being accepted in every office.

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