Canadian offices go to the dogs as work-from-home arrangement comes to an end

By Michel County

OTTAWA, Canada—Daisy moves to greet visitors, her tail wagging. She is listed as a Morale Officer on the Tungsten Collaborative website and is among many pets joining their owners returning to Canadian offices after working from home during the pandemic.

The 12-year-old lab sniffs for treats. Before long, a Basset Hound named Delilah is waddling around, offering her belly to rub, along with fellow four-legged Eevee the greyhound and German Shepherd pup Hudson, who lets out a bark.

Bill Dicke, president of Tungsten Collaborative, gives a high five to his dog Nature on May 5, 2022 in Ottawa, Canada. According to a recent Leger for PetSafe poll, 51% of Canadians support bringing dogs into the office. AFP

Daisy’s skills include “stress management” and “customer engagement,” according to her biography, which notes that many of the industrial design studio’s “greatest innovations can be traced to a long walk” with her.

“We encourage people if they have pets to bring them (to work),” Tungsten chairman Bill Dicke, 47, said in an interview with AFP.

“You develop this relationship by being home with your pet day to day and all of a sudden you go back to work, so now they have to be crated for the day or wander around the house alone, that’s not It’s not fair to them,” he said.

“Tolerance for pets (at work) during the pandemic has increased,” he added.

These dogs sleep under desks or in the meeting room throughout the day, chase balls down a hallway, or chew on squeaky toys. There’s a row of water bowls in the office kitchen, if they’re thirsty.

The Ottawa business is listed by the Humane Society as dog-friendly, and that’s actually helped boost business, Dicke said, as well as boost staff productivity.

Workers are forced to take regular breaks to walk their dog instead of “lunch at their desk,” for example, and don’t worry about their pet being left home alone, he explained.

According to a recent Leger for PetSafe poll, 51% of Canadians support bringing dogs into the office.

Young workers were the most supportive, with 18% of people aged 18-24 saying they would change jobs if their employer refused to allow them to bring their pets to work.

With around 200,000 Canadians having adopted a dog or cat since the pandemic began in 2020, bringing the national total to 3.25 million, it could force employers who are now rushing staff to return to the office to consider this option.

‘Go to work’

Johan Van Hulle, 29, joined Tungsten last year. His canine policy, he said, “was a key part of the decision” to take the job, after working from home with Eevee.

“Allowing dogs is a good indicator” of a company’s culture, he said, and the kind of “not-too-corporate” workplace that appeals to it.

Across town, at the Chandos Bird construction joint venture, the designers of a nuclear research lab are visibly seduced by 10-year-old Samson.

Owner Trevor Watt didn’t want to leave the Yorkshire Terrier alone after moving into a new home and starting work in a new office in January.

It was meant to be a temporary arrangement until Samson got used to his new surroundings, but he has endeared himself to colleagues and staff in nearby offices, who take turns walking him around.

“He loves going to work,” Watt said. “When I say I’m going to work, he’s ready to jump in the car.”

Watt likes it too. “I don’t have to worry about him.”

“Dogs in new environments become very anxious when left alone,” he explained. “I think a lot of new owners know that now that they got their puppies because of COVID.”

If Samson has to go out, he just puts a paw on Watt’s leg. He has toys and a bed in the office and walks from office to office.

Petting him is a great way to “decompress after a tough meeting,” Watt’s boss Byron Williams commented.

Dogs in the workplace, however, can also create challenges, he said, such as “if someone is afraid of dogs” or is allergic to dander.

One of Watt’s colleagues is terrified of dogs. It was agreed with her that Samson would be kept on a leash the days she came to the office.

In other offices, employees interviewed by AFP lamented stains on carpets, disruptive barking and animal hair or drool on clothing, which is not a great look to impress customers. .

Downtown, many shops and cafes have water bowls for dogs, and several businesses such as Emma Inns of fashion boutique Adorit bring their dogs to work. AFP

“If they’re home alone, they’re in trouble,” she said of Rosie, Oscar and Camilla.

As store mascots, however, they are great for business.

“Everyone knows their names,” Inns said. “Some people just come to see them, but then buy something.”

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