At Ibex Outdoor Clothing, four-legged furry friends roam the hallways as frequently as people. Dogs are an integral part of this company’s culture, and have been since the company opened their doors in 1997. At least 15 dogs report to work each day at Ibex’s 50-person office.
Ibex is one of the 20% of American companies that have adopted pet-friendly policies (this number is according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association). Pet-friendly offices are a growing trend, and for good reason. Allowing furry pals into the workplace can be beneficial to a company’s bottom line, boosting morale and productivity, and even attracting customers. Still not convinced? Here are a few more reasons to make your office pet-friendly:
Bringing their pet to work means employees aren't worrying about their pets sitting at home alone all day. This is particularly important for employees who have young puppies or senior dogs.
"We’ve had the sad instance where the dog is near its end of life, so being able to bring the dog here and have the opportunity to make sure that they’re not at home and in pain or suffering, but with continued companionship throughout the day is important," says Keith Anderson, VP of Marketing at Ibex, who recently lost his senior dog and is thankful he had the opportunity to spend those last few special moments with him at the office.
Being able to bring pets to work also means employees may be willing to stay later to finish working on a project because they aren’t worrying about having to rush home to let the dog out.
Dogs are a social catalyst. Stopping by someone’s desk to give their dog a belly rub inevitably leads to striking up a conversation with their owner. A 2010 study from Central Michigan University revealed dogs in the workplace can lead to more trust between coworkers, resulting in greater collaboration.
A 2012 Virginia Commonwealth University study showed employees who bring dogs to work produced lower levels of cortisol (the hormone released during times of stress). The study was conducted at a dinnerware company in North Carolina, which "employs" 20 to 30 dogs a day.
As the workday progressed, those employees who had brought their dogs to work experienced a decline in stress levels of 11% while those who didn’t have a furry pal near them saw their stress levels rise by up to 70% by the end of the day.
Anderson agrees dogs provide some levity in the office. "If you’ve had a bad meeting or if you’re having a bad day and you run into that cute goldendoodle that pokes around the corner asking for a dog treat from you, your day is automatically better," he says.
There’s a physiological reason for this phenomenon. Several studies have shown simply petting a dog can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol.
According to studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, owning a pet can decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels and increase opportunities for exercise and socialization, both of which have immense health benefits.
Anderson says the office dogs force owners to take a break. "It gives people a valid excuse to get out of the office and go for a walk," he says.
Not only does regular exercise improve physical health, but going for a walk has been proven to deliver mental health benefits, allowing the brain to relax and boosting inspiration. A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found going for a walk can boost creative thinking by as much as 60% compared to sitting.
Ibex’s dogs have not only helped to boost internal morale, but have also helped the company bond with clients and venders who come to visit the office, helping to make the company seem more human and approachable.
Seeing so many dogs roaming the halls is an immediate conversation starter with guests. "They’re pretty psyched that there are dogs all over the office, unless they’re wearing a nice black suit and they run into a golden retriever," laughs Anderson. "Either way, they remember their visit with us."
The office dogs have also helped Ibex to connect with consumers on a more personal level. The company regularly features the dogs in their marketing materials, catalogs, and email campaigns. "It helps us connect with our end consumer in a different way that isn’t just talking about product," says Anderson.
The tactic seems to be working. Ibex even created a Dogs of Ibex page on their website to showcase their office dogs. Comments from customers range from "I love Ibex even more now that I know you guys are dog obsessed" to "any chance you might start making dog clothes?" "[The office dogs are] definitely a conversation starter that resonates with our end consumer," says Anderson.