A few years ago, when I started my own business (a law office), the first person I hired was my daughter, a 20-something criminologist. My second employee was her dog, Roxy, a 3-pound teacup Pomeranian. Since then, we’ve hired other employees. We are mindful to look for people who love having our tiny canine companion curled up under their desks or on their laps.
We made the choice to have the dog come to work with us five days a week. Our original motivation was the idea that it was better for the pup to spend her days with her humans rather than waiting at home alone for the workday to end and the people to come home to her. I think this has worked out well for Roxy. She gets plenty of attention from us and from our clients. She is endlessly petted and cuddled, which she loves. She is well-adjusted and friendly to people, barks only when someone comes in through the door, and loves everyone. She gets plenty of exercise racing around the office. She has beds in everyone’s office so has plenty of quiet places to curl up when she needs to recharge.
I’ve seen a number of articles over the last few years that state that pet-friendly offices and shops are a growing trend. The focus of the articles I’ve read has been on possible benefits to employees. Back in 2017, www.scientificamerican.com said that large companies such as Google and Amazon were creating pet-friendly workplaces as perks for employees. Also in 2017, www.benefitspro.com reported that millennials would choose dogs in the office over other benefits or perks. Since then, the idea appears to be gaining momentum.
As with any business owner, I keep an eye on the productivity of my team. I have to admit that Roxy doesn’t always increase the amount of work that gets done on any given day. Sometimes just the opposite is true. At least twice a day, my daughter has to leave her desk and take Roxy outside to the back lawn to give her a chance to do her little doggy business. Roxy is sensitive to environmental noises that we would otherwise ignore, such as snow plows, thunder, construction equipment nearby, and even the sound of the garbage collection trucks dropping the bins onto the pavement. When she hears these things, Roxy demands to be picked up and comforted because they frighten her. And then there are the days when she is so full of energy, she runs around to each of us until someone gives up working and plays with her. So occasionally she causes us to get less done in a day.
But is productivity always measured in short-term results? I don’t think so. I believe that Roxy helps my team bond and to enjoy their day at work. Our office is exceptionally friendly. For example, in our office we all eat lunch together every day (unless someone is out on a business lunch). Not many law firms can say that the entire cast of lawyers, articling students, and staff happily eat lunch together on a regular basis. It’s a relaxed hour of laughing and talking. Roxy helps define our firm’s culture. Her presence invites us to shrug off formality and status and simply enjoy an hour together as friends. In my view, this leads to happier employees, more loyalty to the firm, and greater long-term productivity.
There is also a sound marketing reason for us to bring Roxy to work. Our clients seem to adore having this little bundle of fur around. What a wonderful ice-breaker she is for new clients who are nervous on their first meeting with a new lawyer. Roxy creates conversation; virtually everyone who sees her remarks on how tiny she is then comments that their own dog, cat, or guinea pig is bigger. They smile, kneel down on the floor to play with her, and chat with us as if they’d known us for years. At three pounds, she doesn’t intimidate or frighten anyone. It’s amazing to see how their comfort level skyrockets once Roxy makes an appearance. Occasionally clients take selfies with her to show their kids or friends. By extension, clients see us as people and not functionaries. They like us because we share their enthusiasm for pets. Coming to our office resembles, at least a bit, like visiting a friend at home.
Though she was never intended to be a marketing tool, Roxy has functioned as one. A local radio station heard about Roxy and did a story about her “work” with us.
Roxy’s not a trained therapy dog. However, she has the same ability as all dogs to sense when someone is unhappy or stressed out. Let’s face it, not everyone who comes to a lawyer’s office is there for a joyous reason. My speciality is estate law, so I see a lot of bereaved individuals. On a number of occasions, Roxy has seen someone in tears, gone straight over to them, and put her paws on their knee until they pick her up. She snuggles into their necks and licks their noses. Do they feel better for this? Oh yes, they certainly do.
Having Roxy around is the smartest thing we’ve done.