By Billy Byrne & Marc Feldman
Simon the cat was seen wandering the dockyards of Hong Kong in March 1948 by Royal Navy Ordinary Seaman, George Hickenbottom. Undernourished and generally unwell, Hickenbottom smuggled the cat onto his ship, the HMS Amethyst. Simon soon ingratiated himself with the crew and officers, particularly because he was incredibly friendly and well adept at catching and killing vermin on the lower deck. Simon was critically wounded during the Amethyst Incident, when a Chinese field gun battery opened fire on the frigate. Luckily, the ship escaped the Yangtze and Simon became an instant celebrity as he was heralded by the British and world press. Sadly, after serving on the ship for more than a year and a half, Simon passed as a direct result of his wounds. Posthumously, Simon was awarded several accolades for his service, including the Amethyst Ribbon, People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) Dickin Medal (the highest British honor awarded for animal displays of bravery in battle), Blue Cross Medal (which celebrates all pet heroes), and Naval General Service Medal. It was noted that Simon did “great things to raise the morale of his fellow sailors.” Simon’s story is an early example of the positive effect that a pet can have at the workplace.
The number of companies allowing pets in the workplace has been steadily increasing for many years, and recent studies suggest that number to increase sharply in a post-pandemic world. And why not? After all, pet-friendly office job listings, as well as people seeking those pet-friendly jobs, are at an all-time high on LinkedIn. This should come as no surprise given that the human-animal bond is stronger than ever as 11.4 million Americans welcomed a new pet during the pandemic, and we had the gift of spending more quality time with our “furry children.” Did you know that over 70% of animal owners sign their pet’s name on holiday cards?
According to a survey of 500 C-suite executives (#reallysmartpeople), 72% expect more workplaces will be pet-friendly after the pandemic, and 59% plan to allow more flexibility for employees wanting to stay remote with their pets. Why are companies adopting this philosophy? Scientific evidence supports that pet-friendly offices increase morale, aid in employee retention, reduce stress, improve work life balance, increase employee activity and exercise, improve office atmosphere and company culture, and is an added convenience for employees. Another fun fact that is scientifically proven is that a human’s blood pressure drops when petting a dog…and so does the dog’s!
Given the evidence, is it time for your company to adopt a pet policy? If you’re thinking that way, we say, “Go For It, get the lint rollers and water dishes ready!” Start off by creating your unique company pet policy and considering your landlord’s position if you do not own your building, along with the needs of employees with allergies, people who are afraid of animals and potential liability stemming from an incident. We recommend requiring that all pets be housebroken, that the owners take full responsibility, and that all vaccines be up-to-date. Whatever standards that may be implemented, be sure to apply them consistently. Does this seem like a daunting task? Have no fear, as there are solutions for every problem and there are a growing number of resources available to help navigate the process. For example, Purina offers an “Employee Toolkit” to help get started on creating a safe and pet-friendly office environment. Petco makes the case for pet-friendly offices with the “Pets at Work” initiative, which includes a guide of how to manage a pet-friendly office.
At times, you may come across landlords that are hesitant to allow pets in their property due to concerns about damage caused within the premises and common areas, and potential disturbances that could arise between tenants. How can this be resolved? In one instance, our team coordinated a “dog interview” during lease negotiations between a golden doodle and a landlord. We practiced walking into the building lobby and using the fire stairwells to give the landlord confidence that the pup was well behaved. The interview even ended with a paw shake and a face lick. The comical interaction and shared love for pets between both parties brought a more human side to the transaction and ultimately led to easier lease negotiations. This is not unique to our clients, but our company’s experience as well. When Hughes Marino opened its Denver office in 2021, finding a pet-friendly location was of paramount importance. It narrowed our list of options, and we had to be sure there was appropriate open space and thoughtful enough that the environment was healthy. Fortunately, we found an office in a historic building that met all our needs…and we have a furry friend or two in the office daily.
So, “Who let the dogs in 🎵?” Amazon, Google, Ben & Jerry’s, Clif Bar and Salesforce, to name a few. That may not mean it’s right for you, but no matter which option you pursue, showing employees that you care about their lives outside of work can give you an edge when it comes to recruiting, wellness and morale. And who doesn’t want to be top dog?
Marc Feldman is a vice president of Hughes Marino, an award winning commercial real estate company specializing in tenant representation and building purchases with offices across the nation. Contact Marc at 1-844-662-6635 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.