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story.lead_photo.caption Baxter, a maltipoo, sits in the lap of Brandi Mikula while she works at Collective Bias in Rogers. - Photo by Jason Ivester

Mr. Frunkles, a young Welsh corgi, waits by the front door to greet all visitors, regardless of species. Maddie Cate, a shy schnauzer, sits in a sheltered spot, keeping a close eye on her human who works at the reception desk. Alli, a black Labrador retriever, barges through a door left slightly ajar, making sure a meeting in progress doesn't need her input.

Photo by Jason Ivester
Mr. Frunkles, a Welsh corgi, waits for someone to pay attention to him at Collective Bias in Rogers.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Blake Woolsey with Ellie (from left), Sheerah Davis with Jack, and Lindsay Wallace with Lily sit at a conference table at Mitchell Communications in Fayetteville.

It's a typical day at the offices of Collective Bias in Rogers, a workplace where employees are not only allowed, they are encouraged, to take their canine companions to work.

Dog-friendly offices are rare in the United States, but recent studies indicate workers wish employers were more welcoming to pets or that they'd offer more pet-focused benefits.

A recent study by employment agency Robert Half showed that 82 percent of offices don't allow pets, while 60 percent of workers said they'd like some sort of pet-friendly environment at work. The Banfield Pet Hospital's second Pet-Friendly Workplace PAWrometer released in April indicated that workers would like to see perks like pet bereavement leave and paid time off to tend to a sick pet or to care for a new pet -- even more than allowing pets in the office.

"Any given day there could be 20 dogs here, or there could be two," said Amy Callahan, co-founder and chief compliance officer at Collective Bias, a marketing company that employs about 110 at its Rogers location. On a recent workday, pooches lounged beside desks and wandered about happily while their owners worked.

Since its inception, the company wanted to be dog-friendly, but initially landlords were opposed, Callahan said. When the company moved to Bentonville in 2011, and then moved in 2014 to its current home in Rogers, an agreement with the landlords to allow workers to take their pets to work was vital.

And it has paid off, Callahan said, noting that the dogs have a calming effect on the office and help to reduce stress in an environment filled with deadlines and demands. The dogs also help build camaraderie among co-workers.

"The dogs help break down barriers between people," she said.

A recent study of pets at work by California-based Robert Half found that 6 percent of human resources managers said pets were always welcome in their offices, and 6 percent said pets were welcome on special occasions. Another 6 percent allowed small pets in containers, like fish or turtles. Most offices didn't allow pets of any sort at any time.

The survey found that 29 percent of workers love the idea of pets in the office, saying it would make work more fun. Another 31 percent said pets in the office would be OK as long as the owners controlled their animals. The survey found that 31 percent of employees didn't like the idea, contending that pets belong at home and would be a distraction at work. Eight percent said they hated the thought of working in a office with pets, noting that they are afraid of animals, are allergic to them or find them annoying.

As for how pets in the office affect employee happiness, 9 percent of the human resources professionals said pets would have a very positive impact on employee happiness; 46 percent said it would be somewhat positive; 37 percent said it would have no impact; 6 percent said it would have a somewhat negative impact; and 2 percent said it would have a very negative impact.

When asked about productivity, 4 percent said pets would have a very positive impact, 33 percent had a somewhat positive view, 46 percent thought there'd be no impact, 14 percent predicted a somewhat negative impact on productivity and 3 percent said very negative.

Stephanie Shine, a vice president with Robert Half's finance and accounting division in Little Rock, said while the survey showed many employers had mixed feelings about pets in the workplace, most employees were open to the prospect. She said many workers felt that pets in the workplace improved employee collaboration, reduced stress and increased overall morale.

"Still, pets in the office aren't a good fit in all environments," she said.

Pets have been part of Mitchell Communication from the word go, according to Sarah Hood, director of marketing at the company's Fayetteville office. She said company founder and Chief Executive Officer Elise Mitchell, who is also CEO of Dentsu Aegis Public Relations Network, is a dog lover, and pets have always been a part of the company culture. The Fayetteville office employs about 65 people.

"Elise leads the pack on this," Hood said.

She said for a pet-friendly culture to work in an office there must be an atmosphere of mutual respect among the workers. She said the practice helps build company loyalty, adding that pets keep the mood upbeat and energetic in an environment that can be high-pressure at times.

"It lightens everyone's step when there's a puppy in the office," Hood said.

Mitchell Communications and Collective Bias have workforces that skew toward younger, technology-savvy workers, and the companies said the dog-friendly offices help to attract and keep those employees.

According to the Workplace PAWrometer from Banfield Pet Hospital, 70 percent of workers ages 18-35 -- typically called millennials -- said pets have a positive impact on a workplace, while 56 percent of older workers thought pets were beneficial at work. Banfield Pet Hospital has more than 900 pet hospitals across the United States and Puerto Rico, and is a sister company of Belgium-based Mars Pet Care, which has operations in Fort Smith.

Millennials also said pet-friendly policies influenced their job search. Forty-two percent said they considered such polices important, as compared with just 23 percent of older adults. Sixty percent of millennials said they'd stick with a company that has pet-friendly policies, while 39 percent of older workers considered that an issue when considering remaining in a job.

According to the survey, 51 percent of workers favored pet-related benefits -- like paid time off to care for a pet and pet bereavement, and "pawternity" leave for a new pet. The survey noted that 73 percent of employees said they'd be more likely to accept a job from a company that offered pet-related benefits rather than allowing pets at work.

Louis Hemmelgarn, site engineer at Mars Petcare in Fort Smith, said the company has had no major problems with its dog-friendly workplace. He said the 300 office and plant workers are allowed to take their pets to work. Those who work at the plant are allowed to keep their dogs in the office zone and a grassy fenced area, and can visit them on breaks.

Mars' Fort Smith location has been dog-friendly since 2009. Angel May, senior manager, corporate communications for Mars Petcare, said that most parent-company Mars Inc. offices worldwide are pet-friendly.

Hemmelgarn takes one of his two dogs to work at least a few times a week, he said. His two dogs, Flash and Daisy, are both golden retrievers. Flash goes to the office more often.

"Flash is a little more of a people person," Hemmelgarn said.

On a typical day, Flash can be found at Hemmelgarn's desk or lounging in the front office. Hemmelgarn said Flash and Daisy make it easy to break the ice with people in the office, and most days, the dogs get to taste-test treats made at the plant.

Hemmelgarn said people who apply for work at the pet-food maker usually like animals, and they seem pleasantly surprised to hear about the company's pet-friendly ethos at work.

Mars Inc. prides itself on being a great place to work. May noted that it was selected by Fortune magazine as one of the 100 Best Workplaces for Millennials in 2017.

"Associates on our Petcare team say that having pets in the office is a reminder of who we truly work for and why our work is important," May said.

Two-thirds of human resources officers surveyed for the Workplace PAWrometer said they always disclose pet-friendly policies during hiring, and more than one-third said they'd had at least one employee pass on a job because of allergies. Twenty-nine percent of the human resources officers said the biggest challenge about pets in the workplace is distractions, while 14 percent cited allergies.

While the workers at Collective Bias never mentioned losing an employee because of pet allergies, they did say a major challenge can be managing pet hair. The solution -- sticky lint rollers.

"We have a lot of those rollers," Callahan said.

"I keep them in my car," said Liz Dyer, director of marketing content at the company and Mr. Frunkles' owner.

Mr. Frunkles seemed a little guilty but not overly so. He was busy being petted. It was just another day at the office, and he had a job to do.

SundayMonday Business on 07/02/2017

Print Headline: Dogs at office? It's heads or tails

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