Who let the dogs in? Maybe your boss did | Crain's Seattle

Who let the dogs in? Maybe your boss did

A couple of Trupanion "office weens." | Photo courtesy of Trupanion

Charlie is big on free treats at the reception desk. He roams the Amazon campus and likes to socialize with other members of his team. He’ll also fall asleep sometimes under the desk. No one seems to mind.

Charlie is a 7-year-old golden retriever who “works" at Amazon with his owner, Brita Altig, an executive recruiter. “I love bringing my dog to work, and he loves coming with me,” Altig says. “The dogs help to create a really nice sense of community and provide some comedic relief throughout the day.”

In fact, Amazon has more than 6,000 registered dogs at its Seattle headquarters.

“At Amazon, bringing dogs to work is in our DNA,” says Allison Leader, an Amazon spokesperson. “It started with one of our first employees, who brought their dog Rufus to the office. Rufus become an early mascot for us, and was there for all of our major product launches in 1998 and 1999.

“A team member would hold Rufus' paw and use it to press the mouse and hit launch!  Since then, Amazon has grown into a company that not only allows but encourages employees to bring in their pups.”

Pet-friendly policies spreading

Nationwide, companies ranging from Google to Ben & Jerry’s allow dogs in the office – and studies show that well-structured policies allowing employees to bring their four-legged family members to the office can be good for business. Research published a few years ago in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management showed dogs in the workplace can reduce stress.

One of the biggest benefits of allowing pets in the workplace is related to retention. A 2016 study by Banfield Pet Hospital found that 83 percent of employees feel a greater sense of loyalty to companies with pet-friendly policies. And HR executives and benefits managers say pet-friendly policies provide a nonfinancial benefit that addresses a growing demand among employees for work-life balance.

More than half of workers at companies without pet-friendly policies say they would be more likely to stay at their organization if it o offered pet-related perks. The same survey found that 88 percent of the 1,006 employees surveyed, and 91 percent of 200 HR decision-makers, agreed that having pets at work improves morale.

The Trupanion experience

Employees at Trupanion probably didn’t even need research or a survey to cement that idea. Trupanion is a Seattle-based leader in medical insurance for cats and dogs throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Trupanion has been pet-friendly since the very beginning, says Michael Nank, Trupanion’s PR manager. Today, the 500-employee company boasts 300 pets (including Tristen and Priscilla, the bulldogs who belong to the company’s founder and CEO Darryl Rawlings.

A pet program manager evaluates each pet coming into the office and makes sure that pet personalities mix well together. There is also a pet emergency team, made up of mostly former veterinary technicians, who respond to animal issues as they arise. Trupanion’s office contains two pet playrooms that allow dogs to exercise and socialize with other pets during the day. Each employee can enroll one dog or cat in Trupanion coverage at no cost as part of the benefit package. Trupanion also provides a pet bereavement leave benefit, under which each employee receives one day of paid time off in the event of the death of their pet.

“Pets in the office create a welcoming environment and can provide comfort in stressful situations,” Nank says. For instance, he says employees save money on the costs of doggy daycare and dog-walking. Plus, he said the flexibility associated with a pet-friendly office increases job satisfaction and employee retention.

“There are so many benefits to bringing your pet to work,” says Jamie Kelley, who works on community engagement for Trupanion. “In my case, my pets need medication at certain times of the day. One of my dogs has cancer, and the other has heart issues, so I like to keep an eye on them. Having both of my special needs dogs at work allows me to give them meds whenever they need them. It’s incredibly convenient, and something I will never take for granted.”

January 14, 2018 - 12:21am