<<I take my dog to the office>>


More and more Swiss people are bringing their dogs to the office or their other workplace-a practice that existed in part before the pandemic, but is now being fostered by new ways of working. Owners are enthusiastic: however, there are also those who just don't like it... 

Covid has changed many things, including the density of dogs in Switzerland. Their numbers have risen sharply in the past two years: at the beginning of 2019 there were 511,000 animals, in September this year 554,000 (up 8 percent). A survey conducted last May by the Swiss subsidiary of food giant Mars found that nine out of ten Swiss love pets and 65 percent would even like to bring them into the office. But only for three out of ten respondents does the employer allow it.

In the latter regard, however, something is reportedly changing: since people in many professions now often work at home-and thus the dog is not present in the office every day-companies are taking a more relaxed approach to the issue, according to research by Blick.

Oliver Weber, a dog trainer in Basel-Landschaft, even sees a trend developing: this is because numerous studies confirm that dogs have a positive effect on the work environment. They reduce stress, promote communication and productivity, and get employees moving more. For example, Nestlé Switzerland recognizes the new trend and allows dogs. So does Google, where dogs are called "dooglers" (from "dog" and "Google"). Users say the animals create a relaxed atmosphere and give a few laughs.

But clear rules are also needed, according to Weber. In fact, the expert also works with people who are afraid of dogs: after the pandemic this issue is more topical than ever, because the density of four-legged friends has increased. For people with so-called dog phobia, the office was until now almost the last place free of dogs: if animals now make an appearance even among desks, it can be very limiting for the individuals in question.

Weber and his team offer advice to companies that wish to allow dogs in the workplace. The specialist is convinced that the issue will become increasingly important in the future.

To explicate the dynamics at work, the Zurich-based newspaper brings the example of a 40-year-old woman who for ten years had a desire to have a dog but could not fulfill it. "How could I do that? I live in the city, I'm alone, and I work 100 percent." Then the coronavirus came along, and at Nestlé, where she has been employed for 20 years, the opportunity to work half the time from home emerged. The time was right, says the product manager. And the animal followed her to the office: at the multinational company's Vevey headquarters, dogs are in fact allowed in buildings 7 and 8, where the employees of Purina, a pet food brand, are located.

Twelve employees regularly bring their pets with them. To ensure that this can work in such a large company, a special program was introduced in 2016. "Dog friendly" stickers on doors and elevators indicate where dogs are allowed-this way every employee knows where they can meet a dog. There has never been a problem, Magali Clavel of Purina Switzerland indicates to the newspaper. In her opinion, animals improve the work atmosphere: even those who do not own a pet come to the office to relieve some stress and tension.

The newspaper also advances the case of a hairdresser who keeps a continental bulldog on his premises in downtown Aarau: the dog greets visitors and gets a few strokes, but then lies down quietly. The animal is a central element of the business; it is always present, the employee says. "Like he's a hairdresser," the 33-year-old adds. The bulldog has been with him since he was a puppy. "I don't want to leave him alone in the apartment: the bulldog is a breed of dog that wants to be with humans," his owner says. And already during his apprenticeship the man had managed to bring his first continental bulldog into the living room: at that time he would lie down in the back of the office under the boss's desk. In his opinion, however, one must think carefully about the breed of dog one chooses, because not all animals-the interviewee thinks of a shepherd dog-are happy in being in a store.

The third example illustrating the situations is that of a 50-year-old woman working at the front desk of Rontech, a packaging machine company in Felsberg (GR), who keeps her dog under her desk. The employee was already allowed to bring her first quadruped into the office. "This way I am much more flexible," she says. In front of the office door flows the Rhine, so a lunchtime walk is good for both of them; the duo is often accompanied by a colleague. Most of the staff appreciate the situation. "I've never had any bad experiences," says the 50-year-old's superior, who in turn has dogs under her desk. Their presence is immediately hinted at during hiring interviews: an allergic person would not be considered.

The issue has created debate within the Blick editorial office itself, which thus gives the floor to two journalists, a woman (in favor of dogs) and a man (against). For the former, animals are only good for the environment, and as long as someone has no particular fears, there is no problem. "Bürohünd sind Fründ," office dogs are friends, sums up in Swiss German dialect.

For the second, on the other hand, "dogs in the office are like noisy farts in public: you don't do them, they are justifiable only in individual cases." In his view the issue is simple, there are things that are not done in public places because they might disturb others. "Coexistence works only if we keep private things private, out of respect for others, and if we are aware that an office is not an extension of one's living room, but a place where different people work together," the columnist concludes.