Should we be creating dog-friendly offices?
Dog ownership is on the rise, and progressive employers are embracing the importance of allowing staff to bring their canines to work. Even before the pandemic, large corporates were offering ‘bring your dog to work’ days, and these are predicted to morph into the presence of dogs in the office being a regular occurrence.
The jury is still out on how widespread the uptake is likely to be and, clearly, we need to consider everyone that uses the office, but, assuming you are interested, these are some of the fundamentals you should think about. It’s likely that each of your dog-owning members of staff will have the setup at home that ideally suits their pooch, but where do you start if you’re looking to recreate that environment at work? In essence, there are five essentials which can help you transition your space:
When thinking about the best environment for dogs it’s important to get down and assess the space from their perspective. As more and more offices develop areas for collaboration and relaxation, it’s possible to include sofas for the owners and beds at a lower level for their dogs – that way they can potentially sit together and work on their laptops or chat to colleagues with the dog in tow. Consider also how your screening is designed. If you have glass panels, dogs can easily be distracted by movement beyond them, so it might be beneficial to add some frosting or a solid area at their level to help them settle.
The office design trend is undeniably towards less clutter, so don’t overlook the items that go hand-in-hand with dog ownership. Consider where to place food and water bowls, how to store leads and – in reality – where each dog will settle next to its owner. We don’t want to alienate any co-workers so consideration must also be given to those members of staff who don’t have dogs or those who choose to leave them at home.
The more popular your dog-friendly office space, the more cleaning and maintenance is likely to be needed, so take time in selecting the correct materials and finishes. Are they wipe clean and hard-wearing? Are they waterproof and stain resistant? The chances are that whoever cleans the space will need to use some powerful detergents, so all fabrics and surfaces should be able to withstand those without deteriorating. Opting for washable, removable covers can help to keep everywhere looking pristine.
Dogs love fun, so it can be beneficial to incorporate a play area within your office layout. Whether you opt for a climbing zone or a simple network of tunnels in an empty office, this area will enable the canines to let off steam under the watchful eyes of their owners. Noise can be an issue here, so it’s important to consider the best location for the play area and ways in which sound can be controlled.
Creating a dedicated outdoor space for dogs and their owners can help maintain a healthy balance between exercise and efficiency. Very few dogs are happy lazing around all day while their owners work, so an al fresco exercise area can be hugely beneficial for both parties to let off steam. The pandemic has brought mental health issues into sharp focus, and enabling owners to bond with their dogs in the open air is a really positive step forward.
A summary from Carol Chinn
As Carol Chinn, design partner at The Workspace Consultants, explains, research is indicating that the presence of dogs in the office is not only helping to reduce stress but also to show businesses in a positive light. ‘The demographic for – and the number of – dog owners have changed significantly during the pandemic,’ says Carol. ‘And some businesses are now encouraging employees to bring their canines to the office and are investing in developing suitable facilities to accommodate them. We’re finding that when we undertake e-surveys, the requirements for dogs are appearing higher on the agenda and given that just ten minutes stroking a dog can significantly reduce your cortisol level, it’s easy to understand why. Dogs increase happiness, and happy staff members are both less prone to illness and sick days and more likely to be engaged with their work. That said, there may be team members who either don’t like dogs or are allergic to them, so when it comes to designing your space, it’s vital to take everyone into account and – possibly – to create a set of guidelines for owners to adhere to so that everyone can co-exist in harmony.’
Get in touch
The Workspace Consultants specialise in office design and project management in Cambridge and London, so if you’re considering making your office space dog-friendly, contact us today for an initial discussion.