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Q&A: How does a dog-friendly office actually work?

5 Jul 2017 By Marianne Calnan

Nestlé UK’s head of HR explains why having canine companions in the workplace is a win-win idea

When Nestlé joined subsidiary Purina PetCare in its Sussex headquarters in 2012, there were major changes to consider – not least the fact that, as a pet food brand, Purina ran a dog-friendly office.

The entire location became fully dog-friendly in early 2015, and has adopted Purina’s 12-year-old pets at work policy (aptly abbreviated to PAW). With dog-friendliness highlighted again by the recent UK-wide Bring Your Dog to Work Day, Paul Steadman – head of human resources, business units, at Nestlé UK – shares his experiences of canine co-workers.


What are the benefits of a dog-friendly workplace?

A key outcome of our journey is the positive impact it’s had on non-dog owners as much as those who bring their pets to work and those who interact with them. It has made employees less stressed and more active through dog walking, and has encouraged interaction and socialisation between employees who may not have crossed paths otherwise.

It has formed a sense of fun, too. When we talk to businesses, many see having dogs in the workplace as a relaxation tool, which is a welcome relief because work can be a very serious place.

The lines are getting blurred more and more between work and home life, so having a scheme like this encourages employees to bring more of themselves and their personality to work. Our own research has found many employees, particularly younger staff, would be more likely to work for a company that was dog-friendly.

How did you become a dog-friendly workplace?

We moved into Purina’s headquarters in 2012. Although the pets were around from the time Nestlé moved in, they weren’t introduced into Nestlé’s areas of the building straight away, meaning Nestlé has had the experience of introducing pets into the workplace.

We began by hosting a dogs at work experience day by inviting dog owners from Nestlé to bring their dogs into the office. This really created a buzz and sense of excitement, and encouraged employees to connect with colleagues they don’t work alongside everyday.

We believe people and pets are better together, especially at work. From our experience, pet-friendly workplaces lead to a whole range of benefits, such as higher employee engagement, talent retention, wellbeing, performance and productivity.

How would you recommend organisations get started with becoming dog-friendly?

Employers should always start by getting their leadership team on board, by engaging with them about the benefits. It’s then a good idea to facilitate a day with dogs in the workplace as an experience day. It needs to be managed so that people who do not want to interact with the dogs don’t have to, but that gives staff the chance to see what it might be like. The key is to ask employees about their experiences and create a scheme that works for everyone.

What do employers need to consider for employees who aren’t keen on pets at work?

It’s vital to respect the entire workforce’s needs and create balanced environments that cater to everybody. There will always be staff who aren’t keen on having dogs in the office or are even allergic to them.

The HR team, leaders, facilities and employees themselves need to work together to make the scheme a success – we, for example, always have our restaurant and toilet facilities as dog-free sections, and employees and visitors can choose between dog-free and dog-friendly lifts and meeting rooms.

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