I’m writing this blog at my desk, in an open plan office with eight other people.
On my lap is Carlotta, my colleague’s 15-month-old cavalier King Charles spaniel. Being able to have her at work once a month is a real perk of the job in working for an animal health organisation. It is also part of Elanco’s wider efforts to acknowledge, live and improve the bonds between people and their pets.
Depending on specific sites and the regulations in each country, we’re encouraged to bring our dogs to the office. In the Basel office, we also have a Husky, two Beagles, a Chihuahua and a miniature pinscher just to name a few. I should mention that we adore cats too, but any owner will understand the practical challenges here.
It isn’t as stressful, noisy or troublesome as you’d think. For a start, our office in Basel is used to frequent visits from canine visitors; while our resident border collie Mitch often visits our Cuxhaven office in Germany as part of his year-long training to become a therapy dog.
You might also think it would be difficult to concentrate, but – one year into the programme – it’s actually been very easy. All the dogs have been extremely well-behaved (so far!) as there’s a strong tradition of dog training in Switzerland.
And we’ve found that having dogs in the office, even just once a month, can really help colleagues connect. People often stop and talk about their pets, and it’s a great opportunity to take short breaks from a busy day – great for the work/life balance and its proven effect on performance.
Having dogs in the office has also encouraged us to take regular walks in our lunch breaks. Over the summer, we started doing group walks. Again, it gave us the chance to chat through work outside of an office environment, and out in the open air or in the forest.
A breath of fresh air can freshen the mind, and I wonder if there’s a subtle psychological benefit in being physically active and discussing business while walking in the same direction together (it’s certainly a lot more enjoyable than sitting face-to-face in a meeting room).
The pets interact too, and have very naturally fallen into friendships with one another; the first 15 minutes of the day is always very entertaining for both people and pets.
The only difficulty we’ve had is with the one or two colleagues who feel a little jittery around dogs. This is something that, of course, must be handled with care and sensitivity, but our hope is that ‘dog day’ at the office will help ease them into more regular interactions with dogs and help build their confidence.
The nature of our work means we care deeply about companion animals and their care. Every quarter, we see colleagues across the business commit half a day to a food security or companion animal cause. Having our dogs in the office once a month is a nice, personal reminder of our ultimate aim – to improve the lives and welfare of animals worldwide, whether that be farm animals or our pets.