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Companies are ‘sniffing out’ pet-friendly policies, getting tail wags of joy as a result

Having a dog in your office can provide a number of benefits, including boosting employee morale, relieving stress and creating a benefit that attracts top talent.

Sizeable companies from American Eagle to TransUnion to Clarins have brought dogs into the workplace, and they’re finding that they gain more than “cool points” for doing so. The moves are also are bringing in pet-friendly benefits, such as pet insurance, to attract both pet lovers and key personnel, including millennials.

One company that is enthusiastically bringing pets into its business is Figo Pet Insurance, a Chicago-based cloud-based platform where employees who are pet owners can file and track medical claims, find local vets and even keep an eye on their pet’s whereabouts, all from the mobile device.

“Every day, not only do we (at Figo) get the opportunity to work towards our mission—making lives easier for pets and their people—we get to do so surrounded by others who are just as passionate about pets,” Figo Marketing Director Stephanie N. Blahut said.

Figo officials say they have seen a tremendous uptick in companies offering pet perks as a way to attract high-class talent. Millennials – that group of employees often said to be born between 1981 to 1997 – are said to be driving this trend because of their love for animals and desire to bring a touch of home into the office setting.

But how do you change from an all-human workforce to one that offers a happy place for dogs? The key is to think about what would make both the workers as well as the pets feel like they have a space within the office setting, Blahut said.

The key to bringing pets into the office is to create a dog-friendly environment. That starts with simple things, like having doggy treats on hand, a weekly or monthly “Bring Your Dog to Work Day,” offering deals for discounts with local pet vendors, and having pet insurance as a benefit, Blahut said.

Blahut said Figo has had fun learning about pets in the workforce. Here are some highlights of what the company has experienced.

Q: What is the best thing you’ve seen/heard about someone having a pet in the office?

A: Our office pets provide much needed stress relief and entertainment. My personal experience involves Wilson, a friendly rat terrier mix. His pet parent trained him to stand on his hind legs and “wave” with his front paws. Every time I see him do this, it delights me! So, he has begun to greet me at the door with his trademark wave, eliciting head pets and much love from me. It never fails to brighten my day.

Q: What’s the most unusual thing that has happened to you or someone you know with having a pet at work? How did they handle it?

A: One of our office pets—Iggy, a spirited Beagle—spied an opportunity to steal a bit of a coworker’s lunch. She turned around for a moment, and Iggy came up to her desk on the other side and grabbed her lunch. By the time she turned around, he had fled with her lunch.

Q: What else you do want people to know about having a pet among your employees that benefits everyone?

A: Studies show that pet interaction and ownership have a positive effect on physical health—increased physical activity and decreased metabolic fluctuations (like high blood pressure). Pets also have a positive impact on human happiness—and coupled with studies linking improved employee happiness to increased production, office pets can help you create a motivated team.

 

Karen Dybis

Karen is an editor and writer for Corp! Magazine. She graduated from the University of Michigan and has worked at The Mackinac Island Town Crier, The Kalamazoo Gazette, The (Adrian) Daily Telegram and The Oakland Press. Karen spent five years at The Detroit News as a business writer with stints in retail, workplace issues and personal finance. Dybis also was a blogger on Time magazine's "Assignment: Detroit" project.

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