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Bringing your four-legged friend to work

Forget foosball and comfy couches. Canny companies are luring dog-loving staffers by letting them bring their canines to the office.

At the Vend New Zealand headquarters in Newmarket, one person’s pet peeve could be another’s pet pleasure.

The point-of-sales software company has offices in Auckland, Melbourne, Toronto and San Francisco, all of which offer employees the chance to bring their pets to work.

“It’s part of the general ethos of allowing people to be themselves in work, as they are out of work,” says Simon Pound (32) manager of content and communications.

“Making a world-leading product is hard. The stuff they work on here is really hard, so we have to make it comfortable. It’s all about rewarding and looking after people.”

Pound says Vend has allowed dogs in the office since the company’s beginning, when a dog called Lulu was one of the first staff members to have an official title – “director of smells”.

Vend product designer Jacky Lee brings his dog Beibei into the office. He says pet owners worry about leaving their pet at home, and with growing skills shortages in the IT sector, he reckons a company’s “bring your pet to work” policy might be an extra sweetener for some potential employees trying to decide which company to work for.

“As a hiring company, ticking the pet-friendly box is a huge perk for any pet owners that are on the fence, because to me it’s an indicator that shows that they go the extra mile to care about your little buddy too,” Lee says.

New Zealand may just be catching on to a trend that is growing, particularly in North America. Dog-friendly employers across the continent include some major corporates such as Google; Nestle Purina PetCare Co, gaming firm Zynga, and interactive agency Invivo Communications.

At cloud-based software giant Salesforce the company has created a customized space for dogs and their owners, which combines an office with a doggy daycare, including soundproof walls and rubber floors.

“I think it elevates everyone’s mood and at the end of the day it makes me more productive too,” vice president of marketing Sara Varni said in a Fortune article.

Lee agrees, saying Beibei has become “everybody’s dog” and her presence benefits others around the office.

“I’ve heard somebody say, ‘Beibei being here every day makes me feel like I own a dog, without the responsibility of actually owning one. Awesome!’”

Research has also proven the benefits of man’s best friend coming to work.

A 2012 study by the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found employees who brought their dogs into work had lower stress at the end of the day compared to the beginning, whereas for those without their canine friends, were more stressed by home time.

Another recent study out of Central Michigan University found dogs in the workplace can lead to more trust – and therefore collaboration – between co-workers.

However, before you let your office go to the dogs, Pound says pet-friendly offices aren’t for everyone.

“It probably wouldn’t work particularly well if you were a vet or couples therapist.”

Elly is Idealog's editor and resident dog enthusiast. She enjoys travelling, tea, good books, and writing about exciting ideas and cool entrepreneurs.

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