By Heather E. Lewis, AIA, Principal at Animal Arts, and Architect for Connected Canine
Finding and Retaining Talent Can Be Difficult
If you are an employer like I am, you are facing new challenges related to finding and retaining talent. Employers who are successful in this competitive market are quick to recognize that cultivating talent means putting employees first, which in turn means being flexible and adaptable to change. For example, one of the ways employers have hurt themselves in the last few months is a rigid insistence that people return to the office full time. This position does not consider the circumstances of the past two years, during which time employees developed new hobbies to keep themselves sane, kept kids at home out of necessity, and added pets to their households. Two years is long enough to deeply engrain new habits, and office employees cannot reasonably be expected to flip a switch and go back to their old lives, nor do they want to.
On the other hand, the office as a physical space does provide tremendous benefits, such as seeing your coworkers in person, interacting more naturally, mentoring and onboarding more effectively, encouraging casual communication (as opposed to scheduling a virtual meeting, during which chit chat feels like a waste of time), quick and easy access to the server instead of remoting in, and feeling a sense of community within the workplace.
How then, can we balance some of the benefits of coming into the office with the benefits employees found at home?
One of the easiest changes employers can make is to allow dogs at the office. It is so much easier than almost any other flexibility option and will make your employees happy in ways you never imagined.
Dogs boost human health and morale, and these benefits have been described in numerous studies that vary from anecdotal to scientific. However, I am not trying to convince you that dogs at the office are a good idea by using scientific studies. Studies are boring. Dogs at the office are a good idea because they help give employees more choices to support their personal well-being, and this is one of the TOP FIVE most important strategies for employee engagement based on the 2022 Gallup poll on this topic. The other four focus on communication and mentoring. (The 2022 Guide to Employee Engagement. Washington D.C. Gallup Organization. 2022. Web.)
When we talk about personal well-being,
the 2022 Gallup poll outlines these five elements – career, social, financial, physical, and community. Allowing well-behaved dogs to come to the office helps employees in all five categories. They can focus on coming back to work, which is good for careers because it puts the employees in front of peers and mentors more regularly. Dogs are an obvious social glue. At Animal Arts, we joke that letting the dogs play on the front lawn at lunch is the new “non” smoke break. When we consider personal finances, not having to hire a pet sitter is a huge bonus, especially for fresh out of school employees who have greater debts and more work to do to build their careers. Dogs clearly help with physical well-being, as they encourage people to be more active, and help them with real physical and physiological benefits. Finally, dogs help build community. Community is not a physical locale but a feeling of belonging. We employees love all the office pets, and that makes us care for each other and support each other more deeply, in some way that is hard to describe but is powerful just the same.
If you are concerned about the mechanics of dogs in the workspace (what if Duke piddles on the conference room rug), don’t worry. These issues can be managed via smart office dog policies. Take it from me; we have had dogs at the Animal Arts office since our beginnings in 1979. Dogs are not any messier than their two-legged coworkers.
A flexible workplace that focuses on the individual employees and their well-being, is the one that successfully attracts and retains people. It is still an employee’s market, so let’s focus on the options we can add without undo difficulty or expense.
As we have learned, dogs make everyone smile, and a smile is worth more than words.