The only feeling that could rival the comfort of being greeted by your dog after a day’s work is the prospect of not having to say goodbye at all. While working from home may have more benefits than the luxury of not changing out of your pyjamas, it may at best be a provisional arrangement and soon you may have to walk out on your unsuspecting pet. But, this could soon be a thing of the past if the growing number of pet-friendly offices is anything to go by.
“Given long working hours, people are unable to give enough time to their pets,” says Vikas Agarwal, general manager of OnePlus India. “Bringing them to offices instead can be a good alternative and will help keep employees stress-free. It can also benefit pets since they get to spend more time with their owners and socialize with other dogs as well,” he adds.
Man’s best co-worker
Various studies, including a recent survey conducted by American Pet Products Association, have established that having a pet at the workplace can reduce stress levels and foster positive relationships amongst co-workers. And unlike the expected perception that such an arrangement can be distracting and hinder workflow, it is proven to boost productivity of employees instead.
“People like to take short breaks between work to play with our in-house labrador Hugo,” says Shubhra Chadda , co-founder of Chumbak,. “It is rejuvenating especially on busy days and helps employees be more productive,” she adds.
The company’s Indira Nagar studio in Bangalore has a vast terrace where these pets unwind with the team. “Not just employees, but loyalists of the brand also bring by their dogs when they come down to our store,” she says.
Even if most of these companies do not have detailed HR policies around keeping pets at workplaces, all expect their furry guests to be trained well, vaccinated on time and appropriately groomed. “Labradors tend to be a little feistier than other breeds of dogs, but they too settle down without much hassle,” says Suhail Vadgaokar , VP-customer & brand experience at Urbanclap.
“Employees do not usually bring puppies as they are inclined to be more restless. In any case, at any point in the day even if a few from our 300-strong team spends time with the 5-6 dogs that usually walk in on an average day, we still would not be losing too much time overall,” he adds.
Some companies have a dedicated space just for pets, but most offices in this category are pet-friendly spaces where the dogs are free to walk around anywhere within the office premises. “Pets are not restricted to any space and can move around freely,” says Kevin Freitas , global head of recruiting & rewards at InMobi,. “They are also taken down a couple of times a day,” he adds.
The mobile advertising platform is also part of a coterie of companies that has opened its doors to pets, who like most cases, pawed its way into the company narrative after a few top executives started bringing them to offices. “We are a team of young people, most – if not all – being major dog lovers,” says Vadgaokar of Urbanclap. “Unfortunately, we do not have dogs of our own since we are always travelling or stay alone. So we started welcoming employees to bring their pets to work and that is when it all started,” he says.
Pet friendly offices can also be a great work culture hack, acting as perfect conversation-breakers and helping employees gel well with each other. In line with this, some offices celebrate monthly ‘pet days’ where employees are encouraged to bring their pets to work. “There is no standing rule that we will do this just once a month, but will like to make this a more regular feature” says Vadgaokar. “The first event was held close to Diwali last year,” he adds. Similarly, Chumbak’s Hugo is also usually part of most employee engagement activities there.
While most companies abroad allow pets in offices, it is still a relatively new arrangement in India. “Pets have been part of the company ethos since it started off in China two and a half years ago,” says Agarwal.
“The in-house Shiba Inu breed of dog, fondly called Una, eventually went on to become the company mascot as well. We wanted to incorporate a similar culture in India as well when we adopted Laila nine months ago,” he says. Chaddha adds, “Hugo has become a bit of a celebrity as more and more people have begun to recognise him from our Instagram posts where he is featured a lot. Such initiatives communicate to people that we are a very pet-friendly company,” she adds.