Dogs at work? Cary firm says yes

snagem@newsobserver.comJuly 5, 2013 

— Sometimes Mousse wanders around the office, looking for a squeaky toy or a treat. Sometimes he naps under a desk.

It’s all part of a day’s work for the 36-pound Australian Labradoodle, one of several dogs that regularly goes to R+M, a branding company off Weston Parkway. The firm encourages its 10 employees to bring their pets to the office.

The idea is that four-legged friends can boost productivity and creativity by providing a nice distraction, according to R+M workers.

“We have a very stressful job to do, and that is to be creative all the time, to solve our clients’ problems all the time,” said Susan Nettles, Mousse’s owner and vice president of brand culture at R+M. “… And when we have dogs in the office, the level of stress is clearly lowered.”

For its pet-friendly atmosphere, R+M was named one of this year’s top five finalists in Purina’s national Pets At Work contest.

Some studies show that more workers are taking their furry friends to the office. In 2010, 3 percent of dog owners said they take their dogs to work, up from 1 percent in 2004, according to a survey from the American Pet Products Association.

At R+M, six workers regularly bring their pooches – but not all at once. They maintain a dog schedule.

Lauren McGaha, 23, said she used to work at a marketing firm in Chapel Hill that didn’t welcome pets. She took to Twitter to talk about how she wanted to bring her dogs to work.

So when McGaha applied for a job at R+M, Nettles assured her that could happen.

Now Mica and Kai are regulars at the job.

“They kind of flop down in front of someone’s office and hang out,” McGaha said.

Dogs have become such a big part of the office culture that they’re now included in the employee manual, Nettles said.

Some rules are in place: If more than one dog shows up on the same day, they must have a short meet-and-greet outside to avoid conflict.

And workers must ask visiting clients if they have allergies – or if they’re scared of dogs. If all is well, those clients are encouraged to bring their own pups.

Potential employees and clients have never turned away from the company because of dogs, Nettles said.

Office policies when it comes to pets are important, said Tierra Bonaldi, a spokeswoman for the American Pet Products Association.

Companies can set up baby gates or cubicle containment systems, she said. They can require dogs to remain leashed.

“As crazy as it is for me, not everyone loves dogs,” Bonaldi said.

A gate can keep Mousse inside Nettles’ office at R+M. He often curls up on a blanket next to a bowl of toys.

He’s used to it all by now – he’s been going there for about a year and a half, since he was eight weeks old.

While naps are a big part of his day, Mousse is encouraged to be social. Nettles hopes he will become a therapy dog, so it’s good for him to be around lots of people.

And the company workers have even helped with training. Mousse had a habit of digging in the garbage, and now they all shoo him away when he goes near a trash can.

“We have a bit of that village mentality,” Nettles said.

Dogs are just another part of the creative process, said Beverly Murray, founder and chief executive of R+M who keeps Play-Doh and Smurfs figurines in her office.

“It offers an emotional connection, almost that fuel getting through,” Murray said. “Imagine the power of taking five minutes out to sit on the floor to pet a dog.”

Ethan Messier can imagine it, and he’s not a dog owner. As an accounting manager at the company, he gets to hang out with plenty of dogs.

“That’s why I come here,” he said. “It’s for therapy that I don’t get at home.”

 

Nagem: 919-460-2605 or twitter.com/BySarahNagem

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