We Gave Office Pets Free Rein in the Workplace – Here’s How it Made Our Office Better

 SnackNation-Office-Puppy-On-Desk

Kogi and Layla met at the office, and hit it off right away.

Covert glances soon turned into discrete nuzzling. Before long they were eating food off each other’s plates and engaging in daily wrestling matches.

Before you assume that this is heading towards some egregious HR violation, we should note that Kogi and Layla are friends of the four-legged variety.

Office pets are becoming more and more common these days, as companies are realizing just how beneficial dogs can be to office culture – and therefore to their bottom line.

SnackNation is a pet-friendly office. On any given day you can find 5-10 pooches running around our Culver City HQ, bringing smiles to everyone they greet.

But it wasn’t always this way. It all started about a year ago, two team members happened to be training service animals, and got approval to bring their labradors in to help become more comfortable around people.

Once leaders saw the joy, calm, and focus that these office pets brought to the table, it was a no-brainer to continue to allow pets in the office. These days, office pets virtually have free-reign over our office.

In fact, several team members have actually rescued animals because of our generous stance on pets.

In this way, SnackNation’s office pet policy has been completely organic and employee-led. We really didn’t know what to expect at first, but we quickly found that it made our environment more fun and our business better.

The reality is, the benefits of office pets extend much further than most people think. Sure, it might seem obvious that office pets boost morale – the true surprise is how much they can benefit a business’ bottom line.

Allowing animals in the office lowers stress, increases well-being, and improves things like collaboration and productivity.

Having trouble convincing your CEO that Fido should join you at the next board meeting? Here are 9 ways office pets will benefit your business.

 

1. Increased Collaboration

SnackNation-Office-Woman-Holding-Dogs

We can all probably imagine that having smiling, slobbering pet faces around might brighten your day. But what’s not as obvious is how the mere presence of pets in the office can actually impact the quality of our work.

Studies conducted at Central Michigan University, for instance, found that the presence of a dog in the office improves collaboration.

In one experiment, researchers put together 12 groups of four and tasked each with developing a 15-second advertisement for a made up product. While everyone was asked to throw out ideas, ultimately only one idea could win the day – meaning that collaboration would be key to success.

The twist? Some of the groups had a dog in their midst, while others did not.

After the exercise, questionnaires revealed that those groups with a dog on their side gave higher marks to their teammates when it came to trust, team cohesion, and intimacy, compared to teams without a dog.

The takeaway here was that the presence of an office dog has a measurable impact on how we perceive our peers at work, resulting in greater camaraderie and better collaboration.

In another study, the research team again broke participants into groups of four, and subjected them to a “prisoner’s dilemma” scenario.

They were told ahead of time that they were each charged with a crime, and would be given more lenient sentences if they snitched on their teammates – unless of course their entire group claimed innocence.

For groups where a dog was present, participants were 30% less likely to inform on each other, which points to a dog’s ability to promote trust among colleagues, just by being in the room.

 

2. Higher Productivity

Best Company Perks Dogs Pets

If there’s one thing the powers that be understand it’s the bottom line. If you’re trying to convince your boss that office pets are worth considering, make sure you share the fact that they’re likely to make your team more productive.

One reason is that having a pet at work forces you to take short breaks throughout the day, which improves focus and limits distraction.

Studies show that our brains can only focus at a high level for a maximum of about 50 minutes. To keep working at peak performance, it’s vital that we take intermittent breaks throughout the day.

In this way, your pet’s tendency to need to go out for walks and pee breaks will actually make you more dialed-in at work. A 2016 study conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital found that 67% of employees who took pets to work agreed that their pet made them more productive.

SnackNation Member Success Manager Lexi Vermillion has a different theory why her dog Toby makes her better at her job – a greater sense of responsibility.

“I feel like I have a sense of responsibility,” she explained. “Everyday, [Toby] gets my day going. And then when I’m in the office, he helps me stay focused and just sits in my lap while I’m doing work, and keeps me on track.”

Dogs have even been known to help close deals. Jemma Pascoe, an office manager at London literary agency Peters Fraser and Dunlop, told the Guardian that her toy poodle Marlowe actually comes in handy during negotiations.

She explained: “The foreign rights director will hold Marlowe to the camera and say ‘Marlowe doesn’t like that price’, then pause a beat – and the recipient tends to up the offer.”

Likewise, SnackNation Sales Development Rep Kurtis Michela told us that his pal Kogi has helped him boost his numbers. At least once a month, Kogi will “hop on [a] video call, and he’s always good for a random email.

If he starts barking in the background, that’s always helpful, because then I can talk about how we’re a dog friendly office, and people usually like that.”

 

3. Reduced Stress

sad bacon dog

Pets are known stress relievers. Multiple studies have demonstrate that owning a pet lowers blood pressure and reduces stress hormones like cortisol (which is linked to depression and anxiety), while increasing oxytocin, a feel-good brain chemical that is linked to happiness.

Because of this, pet owners who suffer a heart attack have a better survival rate.

And it’s not just long term contact with pets that matters. A study conducted at Virginia Commonwealth University found that even brief exposure to pets before a major medical procedure reduced fear by 37%.

While the general health benefits of pet ownership are well established, the impact at the workplace was less understood until more recently.

In 2012, VCU researchers found that pets in the workplace reduce stress, which in turn stunts absenteeism, boosts morale, and limits the potential for burnout. Individuals who work alone also reported feeling less lonely. In the Banfield study, 86% of employees found that their office pet helped reduce stress.

 

4. Easier Recruiting & Higher Retention

pet friendly offices puppy snack box

A pet-friendly office is like a dog whistle for Millennials.

It tells them that creating a fun, slightly more relaxed environment is a priority. It sends a signal to potential new hires that yours is a progressive workplace, where the “work/life balance” paradigm has been replace with “work-life integration.”

The concept is simple – since most working adults spend more time at work than at home, work-life integration means that the workplace becomes more like a home, with amenities like food, exercise space, and yes, pets. It also implies that individuals are free to be their authetnic selves at work.

This idea of integration is particularly important for Millennials, who prefer not to have to adopt a “work persona” at the office.

A Forbes story also pointed out that pet-friendly office

“It brings everything together for me. I look at this company as a family, she is obviously a big part of my family, so bringing that all in house is pretty awesome.”

In the Banfield Pet Hospital study, 82% of employees said that a pro-office pet policy inspired greater loyalty to their company, which results in longer employee tenures.

 

5. Better Communication

SnackNation-Office-Dog-On-Lap

Internal communication is a challenge for most companies, especially as businesses scale and teams grow. Employees get trapped in their own bubbles, interacting mostly with members of their own team.

The fact that most of our communication is done over email rather than face to face only exacerbates the problem. Interdepartmental communication becomes harder, information becomes siloed, and teams miss out on the opportunity for information sharing and serendipitous encounters.

In a Guardian piece on the subject, workers in one of Nestle’s UK offices found that office pets gave people a reason to come talk to one another.

One employee noted, “People will stop you in the corridors to stroke your dog so you start talking to someone in a different part of the company who you’d never normally have spoken to, or have only encountered over email.”

A colleague and fellow pet owner concurred: “People will ask to come and see him, and find out where you sit. You end up getting to know so many people in different parts of the business, which can be useful.”

 

6. Improved Morale

SnackNation-layla-dog-pet-office

It’s not just pet owners who enjoy the benefits of bringing their four-legged friends into the office.

The VCU study found that job satisfaction increased for all employees who came in contact with office pets. Likewise, 7 out of 10 participants in the Banfield Pet Hospital study stated that “pets at work make a positive impact on office dynamics and workplace morale.”

Kurtis Michela explains Kogi’s effect on the SnackNation team:

“The best part about bringing him in is seeing how happy he makes everybody else, which then cheers me up,” he explains. “[It’s] definitely a big morale booster in the office…. Since we’re providing snacks, [and are all about] providing a good office experience here, it’s definitely a good way to live the message.”

Layla’s owner, Mallorie Sheldahl agrees: “It’s just awesome having a little companion during the day. She’s definitely a morale booster.”

 

7. It’s Good for the Pets Too

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Part of the reason that office pets lower stress for pet owners is that doing so alleviates a sense of guilt for leaving your pet at home. 86% of respondents in the Banfield Pet Hospital study agreed that bringing their pets to the office reduced guilt about abandoning their pets during the day.

SnackNation’s Kurtis Michela agrees. When asked why he liked bringing his dog Kogi into the office, part of the reason was that Kogi wasn’t trapped inside all day. For Kogi, the first day in the office, “was great, because he wasn’t locked at home, he got to run around and play with other people and dogs.”

Being around other office pets also helps socialize pets, lowering the risk of aggressive behavior and improving temperament around both people and other animals.

According to her owner Mallorie, coming into the office has made puppy Layla “super socialized with the other dogs.”

We interviewed some of the pet owners here at SnackNation to learn more about them and learn exactly they enjoy bringing their pets to work. Here’s what they had to say.

 

The Office Pets of SnackNation
(and their owners)

Mallorie Sheldahl & Layla

SnackNation-Office-pets-mallorie-and-layla

Breed:
Mini Golden Doodle

Most known for:
“She’s most known for being super friendly and loving. And she hops around. She’s a bouncy pup.”

Favorite Food:
“She’s definitely become a snacker. She loves chips and popcorn and anything crunchy. But then she also loves her bacon wrapped bones too.”

First thought this morning:
“Let’s cuddle.”

The first time she came to work:
“Her first day she got a lot of attention because she was a little baby, really small. Everyone was super excited, so she didn’t lack for attention that day.”

Best dog friend in the office:
“Kogi, for sure. [When she sees him] she hops around…and usually just tackles him.”

Coolest trick:
“She does shake, and she plays dead if you go ‘bang bang.’”

Favorite thing about her:
“Her personality. She’s so unique, she’s so loving, and she’s been the same since day one. Just super energetic, loves all people, all pets.”

The best thing about bringing her to work:
“I love that she gets so much attention in the office. She’s super socialized with the other dogs, and it’s just awesome having a little companion during the day. She’s definitely a morale booster.”

 

Jeff Stirling & Suma

SnackNation-office-pets-jeff-and-suma

Breed:
Purebred English Bulldog

Most known for:
“The grunting, snoring, and the constant attention towards anything ball-related.”

Favorite Food:
“Anything that is edible. She will literally hoover it down like a vacuum.”

First thought this morning:
“Food. Where’s my food, dad. Gimme some food and take me to pee.”

Best dog friend:
“I’d probably say Kogi, because they spend the most amount of time together.”

Coolest trick:
“She can dance.”

Favorite thing about her:
“The love that she gives me. I’m a single guy, so having this little one with me all the time, she’s definitely my bundle of joy.”

Favorite thing about bringing her to work:
“It brings everything together for me. I look at this company as a family, she is obviously a big part of my family, so bringing that all in house is pretty awesome.”

 

Lisette Gracial & Mila

SnackNation-Office-pets-lisette-gracial-mila

Breed:
Sheltie/Corgie Mix

Most known for:
“Acting more like a cat than a real dog. She doesn’t think she’s a dog, she doesn’t want to play with the other dogs, she just wants love from all the SnackNation kids here, and really just thinks she’s part of the team.”

Favorite Food:
“She’s like a carnivore. She loves any meat – and cheese.”

First thought this morning:
“I asked her, Do you want to go to work? And she gets really excited because she knows what that means because I bring her a couple times a week. I think she got super excited and ran straight to the door, but I was like, no no wait, we’ve got to get ready first.”

First time she came to the office:
“The first time she was excited and sniffing and excited to see there were other puppies here. She went to work with me at my last job everyday, so she kind of knew just to curl up and relax until mom said, ok let’s go.”

Best dog friend in the office:
“It’s like a love/hate relationship, but ‘Baby’ is Grace’s dog. They sit literally under the desk together, so they’re kind of like sisters. Baby wants to relax with her, and Mila just chills there, staring.”

Coolest trick:
“She can play dead if I give her a treat and say ‘Bang.’”

Favorite thing about her:
“My favorite thing is her eyes. She looks like she’s always wearing eyeliner and her eyes are super expressive. I absolutely love them.”

Best thing about bringing her to work:
“Just knowing that she’s next to me, and when I get off a call, whether it was a great or rough call, dogs are there for unconditional love. She just makes my day better while I’m at work. She makes the good times even better, and if times are a little bit tough in my day, she just brightens my day and makes me happier.”

 

Lexi Vermillion & Toby

SnackNation-Office-pets-toby-and-lexi

Breed:
Dachshund/Miniature Pinscher mix (also known as a Doxie Min-Pin)

Most know for:
“Being called ‘Yittle Boy.’”

Favorite Food:
“He loves carrots. I think he’s a rabbit.”

First thought this morning:
“Why are you waking me up this early. It’s his birthday. I woke him up and started singing, so he was very confused. That’s why his shirt says ‘little prince.’”

First time he came to the office:
“The first time I was really nervous, just because I’ve never owned a puppy that little, and he was only about four months, so I was just really nervous that he was going to bark … or pee. But he was great. He’s actually a really well-behaved dog. Right from the jump, he was very calm and he didn’t make any noise, and people didn’t really know he was there.”

Best dog friend:
“He loves Kogi, because they’re kind of the same stature, so they like to wrestle. But he’s also fallen in love with Layla. He likes Suma too because he tries to steal her toys, but she kind of charges at him so he gets a little nervous.”

Coolest trick:
“He can sit like a meerkat.”

Best quality:
“Oh my goodness, there’s so many. I just love that he’s a good listener, he pays attention to me and he gives me lots of love. Oh and I love when I give him carrots and he runs around my apartment and he starts crying because he’s so excited and doesn’t know where to go. And he did it this morning too when I gave him a treat for his birthday. He gets so worked up and so happy that he just starts whining and crying that he can’t find the perfect place to eat it.”

Best thing about bringing him to work:
“He just helps my day go by super quick and we have fun together, we get to go on walks and play, he just makes me smile throughout the day.”

 

Kurtis Michela & Kogi

snacknation-office-pets-kurtis-and-kogi

Breed:
Beagle/Chihuahua mix

Most known for:
“Barking and whining whenever I walk away, and also being extremely happy.”

Favorite food:
“Beef. Definitely beef. Cooked beef, raw beef, burgers. Ironically – I found this later on – ‘Kogi,’ in Korean, translates to the word ‘beef.’”

First thought this morning:
“Don’t take me to work. Every morning when I’m getting ready for work, he goes and hides under the bed, and it usually takes me about five minutes to get him out. Every day.”

What’s going through his head right now:
“Right now Kogi wants to go play ping pong and go and play with some of the other dogs in the office.”

The first time he came to work:
“For me, it was a little bit of a handful having to worry about another living thing while I worked. For him, it was great, because he wasn’t locked at home, he got to run around, play with other people – overall, it was good.”

Best dog friend in the office:
“His best dog friend at the office is probably Layla. They’re pals. His best dog friend in the world is a Bichon named Teddy. They watched the Super Bowl together this year.”

Coolest trick:
“High-five… that’s his best one. Tricks are a work in progress.”

Favorite thing about him:
“Favorite thing about Kogi is just that he’s a good pal, always down to hang out. Nice distraction from the work day, something to cheer you up a little bit. Loves to cuddle, loves to go for walks, so good excuse to get outside in the sunshine.”

Best thing about bringing him to work
“The best part about bringing him in is seeing how happy he makes everybody else, which then cheers me up. Definitely a big morale booster in the office, but just something to keep things fun. Since we’re [all about] providing a good office experience here, it’s definitely a good way to live the message.”

 

Here’s a video featuring each of our pets and their owner:

 

What Say You?

Is your office pet friendly? What benefits have your four-legged friends brought to your office? Let us know in the comments below.