We just started allowing pets at Livewire. The results have been fantastic, and I wanted to share how we got here.
First of all, we owe a big thanks our amazing accounting clerk, Kelsey. To put it mildly, she rocks! Kelsey can be found behind many company culture builders, including employee breakfasts, thoughtful birthday wishes, and anniversary greeting cards. I hope your office has a Kelsey.
A few months ago, Kelsey asked if we’d ever considered allowing pets at Livewire. I’d never considered it. A lot of our employees work in the field and, just like many of you, our company is a one-man band that got a little out of hand. Pet policies and other office “nice to haves” don’t occur to me naturally, yet Livewire is a place where we encourage employees to take ideas from concept to implementation without worrying about red tape or bureaucracy. “Sounds good to me!” I replied.
Kelsey took the ball and created a fantastic presentation that she shared at our last company all-hands meeting. Long story short, pets need to fit certain criteria and each participating employee agrees to abide by our pet policy. After we started seeing dogs like Hettie and Lux show up at the office, I noticed our “vibe” becoming a little less stressful and relaxed. I find myself going over to Hettie’s bed first thing in the morning to give her a pet and say hello to Kelsey, Kim, and Stacy. It’s not that I wasn’t doing that before, but Hettie is a great way of reminding all of us we should take time out to connect with one another.
It turns out there are a number of well-documented benefits to allowing pets in the workplace:
Stress reduction: did you know your blood pressures drops when petting a dog? The dog experiences a similar reduction. Anecdotally, it appears we’re all being a little more patient with one another since the dogs arrived.
Reminder to take a break: This one is bleedingly obvious. Our brains need a break every few hours and dogs need to be walked and played with. It’s a perfect match! I don’t care what American work culture norms are — we cannot sustain quality work output without breaks throughout the day. Having a dog manufactures crisis and ensures we’re breaking up the day into more productive chunks.
Feel supported and better employer perception: It’s true! Employees who bring their pets to work feel better supported by their company and in turn feel like the company has their back. I’ll be interested to see how this impacts our happiness score over the new few months (which we publish live on our website).
Stimulation: Simple enough. Our pets are pack animals. They want to be a part of what’s going and social stimulation is key. Bringing a pet to work beats the socks off leaving Fido at home in a crate or relieving himself on your kitchen floor. Employees get a kick out of having pets around and relationships deepen as a result.
Henry Clifford is the founder of Livewire, a Virginia-based residential and commercial technical integrator celebrating 17 years of business.