Anna Jentoft doesn’t go to work at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle alone.
Her one-year-old black labradoodle Franny is almost always by her side, sitting at Jentoft’s desk while she’s on calls and greeting other Amazon employees during their workdays.
Franny is one of more than 1,000 dogs at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters thanks to the company’s dog-friendly work policy. The retail giant is part of the 8 percent of workplaces in the U.S. that allow dogs to join their owners in the office, according to the Society of Human Resource Management. That’s a jump from 5 percent of employers in 2013.
“If I just need to take a breather after an intense meeting, I’ll take her out for a walk, or we’ll sit on the floor and play for a few minutes,” Jentoft said.
“It brings me comfort.”
Dogs in the workplace provide more social support for employees, as well as more opportunities for coworkers to interact in a positive setting, according to a number of studies. Social support, or that feeling of being cared for, also serves as “a key factor in whether people with serious mental illness return to work or remain employed,” according to a May 2017 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Logistically, too, employees who own dogs are able to avoid missing work to go home in the middle of the day to feed their dog or quickly return home at the end of the day, said Jennifer Fearing, the co-author of “Dogs at Work: A Practical Guide to Creating Dog-Friendly Workplaces.” These furry pets also could provide an opportunity for collaboration across departments, she said.
“You discover, when walking across the office to pet a cute dog, cross-pollination between your work,” she said. “You really wouldn’t have had the idea to work together, but because you struck up a conversation about the dog, you discover an opportunity that produces some synergy that wouldn’t have otherwise existed.”
Amazon points to the employee experience as the main consideration with its dog-friendly policy. Dogs have been central to Amazon’s workplace for about 20 years, with a Welsh corgi named Rufus even ceremoniously clicking the mouse to launch some of Amazon.com’s first pages, Allison Leader, a communications representative from Amazon, said. (One of the buildings on Amazon’s Seattle campus is named after Rufus.)
This extra benefit helped encourage Jentoft to get a dog in the first place. Now it’s a policy she would strongly value if considering other employment opportunities — at Amazon or elsewhere — in the future. “Now that I’ve had a taste of what it’s like, it would be hard for me to go somewhere where I can’t have her with me,” Jentoft said.
For employers, dog-friendly policies can be added to the list of workplace benefits made to attract and maintain talent, particularly in respect to millennials. “That helps attract and retain potentially top talent within your organization, so there’s essentially a bringing them through the door and keeping them in house aspect to instituting one of these policies that the employer can see the increased benefit of having them,” said Edward Yost, the manager of employee relations and development at the Society of Human Resource Management.
But not all dogs are perfect for these environments — and not all employees enjoy dogs. Barking can ensue at the cubicle next door while you’re on an important call, and the occasional accident could damage company property. And some people simply just don’t like dogs or are allergic. “The only person that is almost guaranteed to benefit from bringing the dog to work is the owner of that dog,” said Anna Akbari, a sociologist and author who writes about well-being and happiness. “The likelihood of everyone else in the office having that same band and affinity for their animal is very low.”
As such, workplaces should consider nuanced protocols before implementing a dog-friendly environment, Fearing said. If a dog shows aggression or bites a person or another dog, the animal won’t be allowed back to the office, for example, and each dog will need to be up-to-date on their shots. Other steps could include requiring a dog’s bedding to be washed once a week, as well as the implementation of HEPA filters to provide allergy relief. Additionally, sections or floors of a workplace should be determined as no-dog-zones, and employees taking their dogs to their desks should take the shortest route possible to get there, Fearing said.
The careful implementation of these rules and policies is how a dog-friendly workplace can be productive and efficient, says Fearing. That’s why Take Your Dog to Work Day — an unofficial holiday where some companies allow employees to bring their four-legged friends to the workplace for one day — this year on June 22 terrifies Fearing.
“It’s mayhem,” Fearing said. “That’s not what dog-friendly workplaces look like.”
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