Do pets at the office help work atmosphere?

NEW YORK — When a conference call turns tedious, Brent Robertson can still count on getting a smile from watching Gus rolling around on the floor.

DOG AT WORK. A bulldog sits under the desk of her owner, the CEO of a small business in Florida who believes pets improve the quality of their work life, boosting morale and easing tension for staffers. (AP PHOTO)
DOG AT WORK. A bulldog sits under the desk of her owner, the CEO of a small business in Florida who believes pets improve the quality of their work life, boosting morale and easing tension for staffers. (AP PHOTO)

The golden retriever is a regular visitor to Fathom, Robertson’s management consulting business in West Hartford, Connecticut. So are Pookie and Ari, dogs owned by two of Robertson’s co-workers.

Beyond the old tradition of a used bookstore or antique shop having a resident cat, some urban delicatessens and bodegas have cats to mitigate any rodent problems. And at some smaller professional businesses with a relaxed culture, it’s becoming more acceptable for employees bring in their pets. Robertson is among business owners who think having animals around boosts morale, improves the work atmosphere and raises productivity.

“Everyone seems to smile and immediately become a little bit happier,” says Barbara Goldberg, CEO of O’Connell & Goldberg, a public relations company based in Hollywood, Florida. Her bulldog, Rosie, is a frequent visitor.

A survey by the Society for Human Resources Management found that 7 percent of organizations allow pets in the workplace, though that may not reflect the practices of very small businesses that don’t have HR officers.

At Badger Maps, owner Steve Benson’s Pomeranian mix, Foxy, seems to know when employees of the San Francisco app developer need some comfort.

“They’re very intuitive,” Benson says of dogs. “They have the ability to recognize when someone’s stressed out.”

But not everyone, including employees, customers and visitors, thinks animals belong in an office or a store. For as many customers that may be charmed, some people are allergic or afraid — and might take their business elsewhere. So besides paying attention to permission from landlords and laws about having animals where food is being prepared, people need to consider how to accommodate uncomfortable staffers or clients.

On the other hand, many people without pets are happy to have co-workers’ animals nearby. (AP)

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