Pet Project: How local companies are building pet-friendly cultures.

Author:Christensen, Lisa
Position:Pet Project

Friendly, loyal, cuddly--there's a reason dogs are called "man's best friend." For many, the hardest part of owning a dog is having to leave it home or at a doggy day care during the workday. But a growing number of companies are adopting a pet-friendly policy as a recruitment tool and way to boost their company culture for dog owners.

Part of the Company DNA

When Thomas Stockham founded ExpertVoice in 2010, he did so with his Japanese Water Dog, Blue, in mind, says McKay Orton, community manager and social media strategist at ExpertVoice. "From Day One, it was just like, Tm going to bring my dog1," she says. "It's very important to him. He set the standard."

Eight years later, being a pet-friendly workplace is coded deeply into the company's DNA. Most pets are dogs, Orton says, although one former employee would bring in a cage of domesticated rats to sit on her desk. Four-legged visitors at ExpertVoice have to be well behaved and keep out of the kitchen and off of furniture, but other concerns are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

"As long as the pets aren't bothering other people, I think anything is fair game. I think we just play it until somebody complains, and then we address it," says Orton, noting that the company has not had issues with aggressive or obnoxious dogs. "It's the owners who take care of their dog. There are a lot of dog owners who say, I wish I could bring my dog to work but he's not well behaved.'"

That self-awareness on the part of owners has gone a long way to helping create a harmonious environment. Some dogs follow their owners everywhere, while others take hours-long naps under their owners' desks. For those dogs who wouldn't do well in meeting settings--or whose owners are going to meetings with people less crazy about having furry attendees--nearby coworkers are often happy to "babysit" for the duration. Orton says the inclusion of pets creates another level on which employees connect and form relationships, strengthening the culture.

So far, she says, the company has had no problems with people suffering from severe allergies or an aversion to the animals. The pet-friendly policy is no secret--it's touted in recruitment materials and prospective employees are given tours of the office upon being interviewed--and the company does make an effort to accommodate those who aren't as fond of animals and their neighboring businesses in their Salt Lake City headquarters.

"It's one of the things we'll mention with...

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