Pet-friendly offices are in high demand after the pandemic boom

Millions of new dog owners want jobs that include their furry friends. But not everyone is a fan.

(The Washington Post illustration; iStock)

No one loves the table tennis table at Rhombus Systems’ office in Sacramento as much as Wallace.

One ear is always listening for the “tap tap” sound of the ball bouncing back and forth. The sound makes him run to where the table is located, bang through the door and enthusiastically run along the side of the ping-pong table while playing played in the office of the security system company.

If Wallace could, he would do it all day, say workers who have witnessed his obsession with ping-pong.

Wallace is not working at Rhombus, but a 2-year-old border collie who often goes to the office a few days a week with his dog mother, Natalie Secco, since the office became pet-friendly during the pandemic.

“When he found out people were bouncing the ball back and forth, he had to join [ping-pong] room, ”said Secco, Rhombus Systems’ sales director, adding that Wallace hangs out at her desk and always hopes someone will throw his ball across the room.

As offices begin to reopen and thousands of workers are called back for the first time in two years, some companies allow employees to bring their pets. About 23 million American households adopted a pet during the pandemic, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Many workers say they find pet-friendly environments an important benefit for their new furry family members. A recent study by Banfield Pet Hospital, owned by Mars Inc., showed that 57 percent of the 1,500 pet owners surveyed said they would be happiest to return to a pet-friendly workplace. Half of the 500 top executives surveyed said they plan to allow pets in the office. Technology companies, including Google, Amazon and Uber, continue to plan to allow dogs in their offices, even with their flexible office policies.

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But the move is causing a mixed reaction among workers: Some are happier and more productive with their furry animals by their side, while others are annoyed or have quit their jobs due to allergies or a phobia.

“I think for a lot of people, it makes the workplace more comfortable,” said Garrett Larsson, dog father of two and CEO of Rhombus Systems. “[But] not everyone is a dog person and that could be a problem. “

In a surveillance video recorded by Rhombus Systems, the dog Duke is seen stealing and eating several bagels from the office kitchen on April 19, 2022. (Video: Rhombus Systems, Photo: Rhombus Systems / Rhombus Systems)

Larsson said that at Rhombus, which employs about 90 people, dog owners are expected to be held accountable. At any given time, there are about two to five dogs in the office, leading to some colorful moments such as the occasional dog hunt, lively greeting, or the 110-pound Dane eagerly following a cupcake-carrying worker out into the kitchen.

Secco said owners generally keep their dogs on a leash for better control, but still let them roam free. Secco and Larsson acknowledge that the dog-friendly office is still new and under development.

“We’re super sensitive to it,” Secco said. “If anyone needs a concession, we’ll do it.”

But not everyone thinks that pets should be allowed in the office. And for some, they create not only unpleasant consequences, but also harmful.

That’s the case for Aniecia Stanback, an intimacy coach in Las Vegas who quit his job last year because of the workplace tax. Stanback said she is an animal lover who has an emotional support for Scottish terrier, Sparky, at home. But she is allergic to cats and some dogs. So when a former employer let a cat roam freely in the workplace, Stanback said she suffered from allergies and ear and sinusitis, which sometimes left her without work for days.

“My eyes would swell, my nose would run, pus would come out of my ear,” she said. “My employer did not want to work with me because they said, ‘The cat has been here longer than you.'”

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Ashley Jean said an office dog made her former workplace, the accounting department of a pet-friendly hotel in Florida, feel dirty at times. The older dog was blind and deaf and needed a lot of attention. So the office was equipped with pee pads for puppies at the entrance, even though he once peed on the carpet next to Jean’s colleague’s desk. Sometimes he passed gas in the office and he was regularly in the way because he had trouble getting around.

After four months, Jean ended up quitting for several reasons, one of which was the dog, she said.

“It was more of a nuisance,” she said. “It’s worse [than bringing kids to work]. It is an animal. ”

Santiago Leon, a Florida web developer, said he once had a private office neighbor who brought his dog to work. He characterizes the experience in one word: distracting.

Sometimes the dog barked or sniffed at him while trying to eat his lunch in the shared kitchen, he said. But perhaps the most unpleasant behavior was when the dog sniffed under the bathroom stalls.

“It felt pretty awkward,” he said, adding that the dog was just staring at him. “I’m thinking, ‘is he going to bark at me? Will he get closer? ‘ ”

To deal with some of the problems that employees may have in South Burlington, Vt., The headquarters of longtime dog-friendly Ben & Jerry’s, a group of volunteers formed an official dog culture committee. Visitors from different departments regularly take breaks to mingle with the dogs, and guests are pampered with dog walks in the office.

“The dog-friendly workplace is a big advantage to me,” said Lindsay Bumps, chair of the dog culture committee, which had a dog door installed between her and the neighbor’s bed stall. “It not only makes me happy and creates a stronger relationship [my dogs]but I do not have to worry about getting stuck at work. ”

Lift’s office in San Francisco similarly had a long-standing dog-friendly office that sometimes hosted up to 50 at a time, said Christopher Veaudry, Lift’s workplace manager and dog father to a French bulldog. Veaudry said dogs should be with their owners at all times. They must also be potty trained and up to date on vaccinations to receive an official ID badge from the company. Lyft also has dedicated dog-free rooms for people who have allergies or do not want to be around the furry companions.

Veaudry said he loves to see how many people Frank makes to smile on a daily basis. Frank even wears a tactical vest with a QR code tag that will lead people to his Instagram account, where he has about 600 followers.

“I sometimes joke that people like the dog more than me,” he laughed as Frank snorted next to him.

Sarah Sedillo, social media coordinator at San Diego-based productivity software company ClickUp, said bringing her pandemic poodle mix Teddy to the office encourages her to leave her desk and mingle more with her colleagues. Teddy loves to walk through the office to greet colleagues and furry friend Nick, a mix of white terriers who follow people into the kitchen hoping to get leftovers.

“People stop by once an hour to come and say hello … it tends to be a good mental break,” Sedillo said.

Carolyn Davis, ClickUp’s office manager and dog mother to Nick, said Nick, Teddy and their furry friends have become “office celebrities.”

“I did not want to take a job I could not take my dog ​​with me,” she said. “It gives me peace of mind to know that his days are not stuck at home when he is alone.”

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Secco said the most important thing in the workplace is to make sure everyone is comfortable in their environment. This may mean that owners only bring in their furry friends on certain days or have certain limits.

“Sometimes I turn around and someone is lying with my dog,” she said. “It’s a really happy thing for our office.”

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