This article is part of the upcoming Top Places to Work issue. The names of the companies that made this year’s list will be released online Thursday night.
Walk into a RE/Max Leading Edge office in Greater Boston and you might be greeted by Ivy the Chihuahua, Ransom the golden doodle, or Piper, an Australian cattle dog.
The dogs “roam around like people” at the company’s 11 local offices, says Christine George, executive vice president of marketing.
“We’re a very social culture,” she says. “The dogs just put a smile on everybody’s face.”
RE/Max is among a number of local companies that open their doors to workers’ — and customers’ — four-legged friends. Nearly 80 percent of dog owners would bring their pooches to work if their bosses let them, according to a recent survey conducted by the dog-sitter website Rover.com. Studies have shown that dogs can lower stress levels, improve people’s moods, and increase trust and collaboration, qualities that any employer would welcome — provided they aren’t accompanied by gnawed furniture or stained carpets.
Among the better known dog-friendly workplaces in the country, according to Rover.com: Ben & Jerry’s, Google, Zynga, and Etsy.
Oftentimes, it’s the boss who sets the tone for a pro-pup workplace.
At Mercedes-Benz of Burlington, managing partner Sean King brings in his 28-pound French bulldog, Winston, who serves as the office mascot. Winston has been known to escape from King’s office, but King says his colleagues are understanding. Besides, allowing pets makes the high-end dealership seem less stuffy, he says, with free treats and a bowl of water for visiting dogs.
“The reason why it works for us is that it’s in doses,” King says. “There’s that fine balance where it’s just enough so everyone enjoys it, including the dogs, but not too much where it starts disrupting.”
But he does keep a carpet-cleaning machine on hand, just in case.
Many companies don’t have strict pet policies, but it’s a good idea to set guidelines, especially considering how precious they are to their owners, says Tracy Burns, chief executive of the Northeast Human Resources Association.
“Dogs are like people’s babies,” she says.
Companies willing to let dogs visit should ask employees to file a request first, Burns says, and provide details about the size of the dog, breed, and personality. It might even make sense to have employees sign a liability form to protect the company if something goes wrong.
Employers should also consider whether dogs will actually benefit the work flow or if the company is simply jumping on a trend, Burns says. “Do people really take advantage of it? Is it really impactful or more for show?”
Fido might not be a good fit in every office (say, at a buttoned-down financial services firm), but he might become part of the company culture at a laid-back startup, especially if workers tend to clock long hours.
Dogs are allowed in the corporate office of Big Night Entertainment Group, which runs nightclubs and restaurants in Boston, but human resources manager Craig Marguette admits they can be a distraction.