As soon as Norman enters the offices of Pandera Labs in downtown Chicago, he runs around and says hello to all the employees.
Ready to start his day, he sometimes enjoys his breakfast and then gets ready for a long day of work — which usually means attending meetings, chewing on a bone and playing fetch with owner Anthony Carminati, Pandera’s lead data scientist.
“He greets everybody when they walk in. He is our little receptionist,” Carminati said of his almost 2-year-old work companion.
Pandera Labs, an international tech company and software development studio that builds smart apps, moved to its new office in the Windy City’s Loop six months ago. Carminati said finding a space that allowed dogs was part of the criteria for a new office.
With Norman’s easygoing attitude, puppy-like cuteness and trained social skills, Carminati said his dog offers benefits to the workplace and positively affects the environment. Norman, a dachshund who’s generally on a four-day workweek, helps the company’s 25 employees relieve stress, take a break from work and spread happiness. Carminati said working long hours and interacting with many customers breaks up the day and is more relaxing with Norman around.
“All over the office you hear a ball bouncing because at some point during the day somebody is playing with Norm,” he said.
Norman — who is on Instagram, too — is joining other furry friends around the country in the growing trend of bringing pets to work. To celebrate June 23 as National Bring Your Dog to Work Day, St. Louis-based pet food company Nestlé Purina PetCare Co.’s published its first-ever Pets at Work report June 20.
The report focused on benefits that pets bring to employees and the workplace. For example, 63 percent of employees in pet-friendly workplaces said they are “very satisfied” with their work culture. Purina also found that most pet-friendly spaces occur at tech companies with younger demographics; 71 percent are pet-friendly. Dr. Kurt Venator, chief veterinary officer for the company, said this is because more millennials are pet owners — 35 percent of the population, according to statistics from the American Pet Products Association.
“Young pet owners see pet-friendly workplaces as very much an extreme work benefit; they don’t want to leave their pets at home all day,” Venator said, sitting next to three golden retrievers.
He indicated the study also found that having pets come to work was ranked second in terms of most valuable benefits, which beat out free parking and coffee.
The study reported that pet-friendly workplaces found employees happier, more productive and friendly. Some 20 percent of the more than 1,000 adult respondents said their pet-friendly environments are more exciting; 17 percent said innovative and 15 percent declared it inspiring.
“It changes the dynamic and helps spur creativity, social interaction and engagement, and it speaks to the work-life balance,” Venator said.
Having animal friends is normal for most people, but bringing them into work bolsters that healthy balance between work and play; it also lowers stress levels, blood pressure and cholesterol, encourages exercise and aids employee retention. Boosting morale is an important one, too, he added.
Although adding pets to the workforce is steadily growing, Venator sees it on a large scale — the campus has about 200 pets at work in a given week and it has been this way for the past 20 years, he said. Purina boasts the world record for having the most dogs on the Bring Pets to Work holiday.
In 2016, Purina partnered with Glassdoor, Petco, Onion, Inc, The Nerdery, and Outward Hound employees and brought 691 pets to all their campuses combined. This year, however, Venator said the company is focusing on spreading the reality of pet-friendly spaces and “putting energy around this movement and hoping more companies will adopt pet-friendly policies.”
He said the biggest challenges that block pet-friendly spaces are the stereotype of distraction, safety and pet allergies. But with some modified tools, open dialogue about the movement’s benefits — and common sense from employees — those challenges become opportunities.
HR managers see the benefits of bringing pets into the workforce, too. According to a recent study by Robert Half Office Team, 55 percent of 306 managers surveyed feel allowing pets in the office has a positive impact on employee happiness and 37 percent believe it helps productivity.
Despite the increased acceptance, 82 percent of companies do not allow dogs at work and only 6 percent allow dogs into the office to celebrate Bring Your Dog to Work Day.
But that number could slowly be growing with fury friends like Norman, who make most people feel comfortable at work.
“It took a couple of weeks for me to feel comfortable to bring him here, but now it is part of his routine and everyone loves having him around,” Carminati said of Norman.
Offices like Pandera, The Nerdery or Google, Inc. in Chicago are just a few joining the trend; Venator and Carminati said they hope to see more corporations jump on board with a pet-friendly policy in the near future.
And they go both ways. For Norman, the benefits are clear. With his busy schedule and reputation as a vital team player, Norman even got his own company headshot.
Ariel Parrella-Aureli is a Workforce intern. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.