Pet-friendly offices are in high demand after the pandemic boom

Millions of new dog owners want workplaces that include their furry friends. But not everyone is a fan.

(The Washington Post illustration; iStock)

Nobody loves the ping-pong table in Rhombus Systems’ Sacramento office as much as Wallace.

One ear is always listening for the “tap tap” sound of the ball bouncing back and forth. The sound prompts him to run to where the table is located, burst through the door and enthusiastically run along the side of the ping pong table while the game is played. is played in the office of the security systems company.

If Wallace could, he would do it all day, say workers who have witnessed his obsession with ping pong.

Wallace is not a Rhombus worker, but a 2-year-old border collie who frequently goes to the office a few days a week alongside his dog mom, Natalie Secco, since the office became pet-friendly during the pandemic.

“Once he discovered that people throw the ball back and forth, he had to be in the [ping-pong] room,” said Secco, sales director for Rhombus Systems, adding that Wallace stands by his desk and is always waiting for someone to throw his ball across the room.

As offices begin to reopen and thousands of workers are being recalled for the first time in two years, some companies are allowing employees to bring their pets. On 23 million American households adopted a pet during the pandemic, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Many workers say that pet-friendly environments are a major plus for their furry new family members. A recent survey by Banfield Pet Hospital, owned by Mars Inc., showed that 57 percent of 1,500 pet owners surveyed said they would be happier to return to a pet-friendly workplace. Half of the 500 top executives surveyed said they plan to allow pets in the office. Tech companies like Google, Amazon and Uber plan to continue allowing dogs in their offices, even with their flexible policies.

But the move is causing a mixed reaction among workers: Some are happier and more productive with their furry animals by their side, while others are angry or have left their jobs due to allergies or phobias.

“I think for a lot of people it makes the workplace more enjoyable,” said Garrett Larsson, father of two and CEO of Rhombus Systems. “[But] not everyone is a dog person and that can be a problem.”

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Larsson said that at Rhombus, which employs about 90 people, dog owners are expected to be responsible. At any given time, around two to five dogs are in the office, leading to some colorful moments like the occasional dog chase, animated greetings, or the 110-pound Great Dane who excitedly followed a worker carrying cupcakes into the kitchen.

Secco said owners often keep their dogs on a leash for better control, but still let them roam free. Secco and Larsson acknowledge that the dog-friendly office is still young and evolving.

“We’re super sensitive to that,” Secco said. “If anyone needs a concession, we’ll make it.”

But not everyone believes that pets should be allowed in the office. And for some, they not only create unpleasant, but harmful consequences.

That’s the case for Aniecia Stanback, an intimacy coach in Las Vegas, who quit her job last year because of her workplace cat. Stanback said she is an animal lover who has an emotionally supportive Scottish terrier, Sparky, at home. But she is allergic to cats and some dogs. So when a former employer let a cat roam free in the workplace, Stanback said she suffered from allergies and ear and sinus infections that sometimes left her out of work for days.

“My eyes were swollen, my nose was running, pus was coming out of my ear,” she said. “My employer didn’t want to work with me because they said, ‘The cat’s been here longer than you.’ ”

Ashley Jean said an office dog made her former place of work, the accounting department of a pet-friendly Florida hotel, sometimes look dirty. The senior canine was blind and deaf and needed a lot of attention. So the office was equipped with puppy pee pads in the entryway, although he once peed on the rug next to Jean’s co-worker’s desk. He sometimes passed gas in the office and was regularly on the way because he had trouble getting around.

After four months, Jean ended up dropping out for various reasons, one of which was the dog, she said.

“It was more of a nuisance,” she said. “And worse [than bringing kids to work]. It’s an animal.”

Santiago Leon, a web developer in Florida, said he once had a private office neighbor who brought his dog to work. He characterizes the experience with one word: distraction.

Sometimes the dog would bark or sniff as he tried to eat lunch in the shared kitchen, he said. But perhaps the most uncomfortable behavior was when the dog snooped under the bathroom stalls.

“It was really weird,” he said, adding that the dog just looked at him. “I’m thinking, ‘Is he going to bark at me? Will he approach? ”

To address some of the issues employees may have in South Burlington, Vermont, home of Ben & Jerry’s, a group of employee volunteers who formed an official canine culture committee. Visitors from different departments regularly take breaks to mingle with the dogs, and guests are treated to dog walks at the office.

“The dog-friendly workplace is a huge plus for me,” said Lindsay Bumps, head of the canine culture committee, which installed a dog door between her and her neighbor’s cubicle. “It not only makes me happy and creates a stronger relationship with [my dogs]but I don’t have to worry about getting stuck at work.”

Lyft’s San Francisco office also had a former dog-friendly office, sometimes hosting up to 50 at a time, said Christopher Veaudry, Lyft’s head of workplace operations and father of a French bulldog. Veaudry said dogs need to be with their owners at all times. They must also be trained and updated on vaccines to receive an official identification tag from the company. Lyft also has exclusive rooms for people with allergies or those who don’t want to be around their furry companions.

Veaudry said he loves seeing how many people Frank makes smile on a daily basis. Frank still wears a tactical vest with a QR code patch that will lead people to his Instagram account, where he has around 600 followers.

“I joke sometimes that people like the dog better than me,” he laughed, as Frank huffed beside him.

Sarah Sedillo, social media coordinator at San Diego-based productivity software company ClickUp, said bringing her pandemic poodle puppy Teddy into the office encourages her to get out of her desk and mingle more with her colleagues. Teddy loves to wander around the office to greet co-workers and furry friend Nick, a white terrier mix that follows people into the kitchen waiting for leftover food.

“People stop by once an hour to say hi…it tends to be a good mental break,” Sedillo said.

Carolyn Davis, ClickUp’s office manager and Nick’s dog mom, said Nick, Teddy and their furry friends have become “office celebrities.”

“I wouldn’t take a job I couldn’t take my dog ​​to,” she said. “It gives me peace of mind knowing that your days aren’t stuck at home alone.”

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Secco said the most important thing in the workplace is making sure everyone is comfortable in their environment. This could mean that owners only bring their furry friends on certain days or have certain limits.

“Sometimes I turn around and someone is lying with my dog,” she said. “It’s a very joyful thing for our office.”

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