16 September 2008

It's a Dog's Life at Work

It may sound a bit barking, but there’s no need to leave your dog behind when you set off for the office, writes Belinda Smith. Every morning, Dougie Irvine goes for an hour's run before he prepares for work and sets off on a half-hour walk to his Edinburgh city centre office. Once there, tired from his exertions, the trill as Windows is launched on the PC is his cue to take to his bed, lie on his back, stick his feet in the air and doze off for the rest of the day.

Fortunately, Dougie, a nine-year-old terrier cross, has no important matters to attend to. It is his owner, Jane Irvine, the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman and chairman of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, who has to deal with the business of the day.

Dougie is one of those fortunate dogs across Britain who are not left behind when their owners go to work, but go with them. It is something that The Blue Cross animal welfare charity is keen to promote when it holds its 13th annual Take Your Dog to Work Day next Wednesday. Its aim is to encourage dog owners to spend more time with their pets by taking them to work every day and to experience the benefits of the practice - to themselves and those around them.

For Dougie it means company all day long. He has his own bed and a water bowl in Jane's office. "I have a dog gate, too, so he can't wander around all over the place," she says. And as far as the reactions of her colleagues and those people who visit the office are concerned, it works well. She is always careful to check that no one is allergic to dogs, though - if someone does have an allergy or a dislike of dogs, she uses another meeting room.

Also, as with the presence of dogs in other workplaces, it's a great stress-buster. "I'm dealing with complaints all the time, which is stressful, so it just eases that," says Jane. A survey carried out by The Blue Cross showed more than 90 per cent of employers who allowed dogs in the workplace noticed a positive change in the working environment. One in two found that there was a decrease in absenteeism, 67 per cent said it improved staff morale and 56 per cent discovered that work relations improved.

Yet, in spite of all the obvious benefits of having animals in the workplace, Britain lags behind the US in making it a common practice. Some large companies, such as Google, embrace the idea, but in the main it is only small firms and animal-related businesses that permit it. In the US, one in five employers allows dogs at work and there is even a website for job-seekers (simplyhired.com) that lists employers who encourage it. In Taiwan nearly half of all employers are pet-friendly.

[Source: Telegraph.co.uk]