Today was “Bring Your Dog to Work” day in my office. Yes, you heard correctly: bring your DOG. When the opportunity to bring our four-legged friends to work was announced, there was a variety of responses. Some said, “How fun!” Some said, “That will be interesting.” Some said nothing, just grumbling under their breath (these are obviously not the dog owners). And others commented, “Guess there won’t be much work actually happening.”
As the mom of two pugs (Calvin and Lucy), I had no hesitation about bringing my pups to the office. Did it disrupt my day? Of course it did. Did I have to take more potty breaks than usual? Yes. Did I get any work done? Well, that depends on how you look at it.
You see, not one of us could honestly say that we got the normal amount of work done on a day when wagging tails and slobbery kisses dominated the workplace. We’d be lying if we claimed that the presence of dogs – of all shapes, sizes, and dispositions – didn’t change the dynamic in the office. But what I can say for sure is that the KIND of work that happened today probably did more for long-term productivity than anything we could have trained on or studied.
That last statement was a bold one. But here’s why I make it: If you came into my office today, what you would have observed were people engaged with each other around something they hold in common. As we guarded our pups, carefully watching to ensure that they “played nice with each other,” we, too, learned to engage with each other in new ways. We were all reduced to a common level (figuratively and literally) as we crouched down to pet, nurture, and play with dogs. We shared stories, we extended care, and we spoke in voices that are usually reserved for home. From the CEO and down through the ranks, our shared goal was to get a tail wagging. It was team building at its finest.
And if you watched the dogs, the lessons were obvious:
1. Be inquisitive. Poking your nose into a situation isn’t always the best idea, but give something a good sniff to see if you can somehow be useful. You might just learn something new.
2. Be brave. New situations or environments can be scary. But sometimes it takes just a little bit of courage to realize a new home away from home.
3. Know when to back down. You can continue to make your point until others consider you to be obnoxious. Sometimes, taking the less dominant position wins you greater reward.
4. Use positive reinforcement. Everyone likes a little praise. Be sure to give others a pat on the back every now and again.
5. Ask for what you want (or need). Sometimes, the best approach is a direct one. Others cannot read your mind or automatically know what you need to be successful or happy. Before you give up and just pee on the rug, be sure others know what you need.
6. Be enthusiastic about the simple things. Your energy will be contagious to others.
Of course I don’t think bringing a dog to work everyday is a good idea. I am honestly exhausted tonight. But I don’t think it’s because I had to manage two pugs in the workplace. I believe it is because I spent the day engaged with other people, getting to know about them and sharing something about myself. No matter where you work or in what industry, isn’t it always the relationship building that takes the most effort? Collaboration is hard. Who would have guessed that 15 dogs of different breeds and backgrounds could show us how it’s done? Maybe “going to the dogs” isn’t such a bad thing after all.
(My female pug, Lucy, is pictured above. She is obviously a go-getter in the office. Calvin takes a more casual attitude about work.)