Local Company Enjoys Pet Perks
"Take Your Dog to Work" day is an annual tradition at a growing number of companies throughout the US. But some progressive Triangle firms are taking this event a step further by allowing employees to bring their dogs to work more frequently. The folks at TheeDesign, a website design and digital marketing agency in Raleigh, bring the "TheePets" (dogs and cats) to the office on a designated day each month. Aside from the enjoyment of having the pitter patter of little paws around, they report that having pets in their office increases employee engagement, productivity, creativity and contributes to an overall fun atmosphere. And it's hard to get stressed at work when there's a cute dog looking at you with a "don't worry, be happy" expression on its face.
Triangle Paws sat down with Heather Leahwood, Digital Marketing Specialist at TheeDesign to get the lowdown on how they started a Pets at Work program for their office and how they make it work for people and pets.
TPAWS: How did TheeDesign start your Pets At Work day? Do the employees' pets get to go to the office every day or just on the official Bring Your Dog to Work day each June?
HL: Our CEO, Richard Horvath, allows our pets to visit on the last Friday of each month! He actually started it about three years ago, when I was reading an article about pets at work, and I casually mentioned, “I wish we could have our pets here with us sometimes.” Richard seemed to consider my words for a moment, and he said, “We can. Why don’t we do the last Friday of the month?”
A few weeks later, one of our Business Development Managers, Rob Delory, who also runs the Raleigh Pups & Pints meetup group made a similar request. That cemented the idea in our corporate culture, and at the end of the month, we all brought our pets for the first time! The animals had a ball and it gave us all something to look forward to.
TPAWS: Does having pets in the office create a distraction or help increase productivity?
HL: Since they come only once a month, our pets aren’t much of a distraction. In fact, having that special Pets at Work day to look forward to really keeps morale high. When our pets visit we set up beds and food bowls beneath our desks. My dog Willow typically likes to sit in an office chair. I pull her chair up right beside my desk and she quietly rests beside me. Whenever I get up to go to the kitchen or meet with a co-worker, she walks right at my side. All our pets are very polite. Charlotte brings her cat Neko (Japanese for “cat”), a beautiful long-haired kitty who lounges around on her desk. Most of our pets are very quiet and well-behaved. And it’s fun to randomly have Miki, Richard’s tiny chihuahua, trot across the marketing room looking for a treat.
TPAWS: How does having pets around impact the company culture?
HL: Honestly, I think most animal lovers dream of having their best furry friend join them at work. We feel so excited that we’re lucky enough to work at a company that allows our best friends to be part of our work life. One of my best memories with Willow is taking my lunch break and sitting in my car with her, eating my lunch, sharing a few bites with her, and watching Netflix together. And I love that we all get to know each other’s pets. Our pets are often a reflection of who we are. It feels like you can really know your co-workers a lot better when you get to see their dogs and cats around the office.
TPAWS: How might you utilize having pets at work to increase TheeDesign's social media or brand awareness?
HL: We had this great experience with Purina. We tweeted a picture of Rob’s dog Dooley working hard at a computer. They responded by turning Dooley into a meme and tweeting it back to us. We had a back and forth on Twitter with Purina all day, sharing our pets’ photos. Finally, Purina messaged us and offered to send a care package for our next Pets at Work day. They sent a huge box of various treats, exciting toys, a leash, a really nice bowl. It was like Christmas for our pups! We had so much fun playing with the toys and treats, and we took pictures of our dogs enjoying Purina’s goodies. It was great branding for both of us and a fantastic example of how social media should be used. Social media is SOCIAL. It’s all about building relationships and making friends.
Since we’re a digital marketing and web design company, social media is part of what we do for clients. It was really exciting to just organically create such a lively social media experience. We wrote a case study about our experience with Purina.
(Click here for TheeDesign's entertaining case study which shows how they created Twitter buzz with Purina. Added bonus - it includes TheeDesign tips on how you can leverage social media for your branded content.)
TPAWS: What kinds of activities do you do with the animals when they are in the office?
HL: We did a “social media takeover” where we pretended our dogs and cats were running our Twitter and Facebook for the day. I took a silly video of Willow doing tricks. We got a “selfie” of Willow posing with Steve Welch’s big bulldog Marty. We also do other fun activities with our pets. I pose Willow at the front desk like she’s working on our website, and I take photos. Social media and digital marketing should include creativity and fun - having our pets at work shows off our fun corporate culture and provides us with a unique method of storytelling and connecting with our followers.
TPAWS: Where do the pets stay while people work or are in meetings? What is it like having your best friend next to you at work all day?
HL: For internal meetings, we typically bring our dogs along with us. If I had a client, however, I’d probably let a co-worker watch Willow for an hour while I meet. It depends on the client.
Having Willow next to me all day is like heaven. I hate leaving her at home to be at work. Knowing she will get to have a special day each month to join me at work and see what I do all day -- it’s priceless. We’re building priceless memories and I’m so grateful to TheeDesign and Richard for allowing us to let our pets be a part of our day.
TPAWS: Do the pets enjoy being in the office all day? Do they get along with the other humans and animals?
HL: Only well-trained, housebroken, well-behaved pets are allowed to visit, of course. Our dogs love running around and playing together; they all make friends quickly, and we play games with them. It’s a great socialization experience for the dogs. The cats tend to keep to themselves, laying on their human’s desk and keeping them company. Our pets love the enriching experience of socializing, playing in a new environment, getting to know new people and pets, and being part of our corporate culture. Willow comes home and sleeps really well that night after playing all day!
TPAWS: Before we wrap-up, do you have any parting words for companies considering a Pets at Work day for their employees?
HL: If a company wants to start having a Pets At Work day, it’s important to consider the safety of the other pets and your fellow colleagues.
In short, Pets-at-Work Day is great for employee morale and fun for our pets. It enhances our corporate culture and provides fantastic social media and content opportunities. I highly recommend other local companies follow suit and allow pets to visit the workplace at least once a month!