If the Buffer team wasn’t fully remote, here’s how I’d picture our office looking: wide-open spaces with big tables for collaborating, children and babies hanging out on their parent’s laps; cats and dogs running around merrily with a scattering of pet toys littering the floor.
We believe in bringing our whole selves to work, and that means family and furry friends alike! Thus, we all strive to know and celebrate each other’s pets, kids, significant others, side projects and more.
How does this manifest in a remote-work environment? Here’s why including canine and feline sidekicks in the workplace matters, some fun stories, some virtual pet hangouts and a whole lotta “awwws.”
More than cute faces: the benefits of pets in the workplace
The presence of pets at work is more than cute—it can be hugely beneficial in a variety of ways.
Virginia Commonwealth University business professor Randolph T. Barker conducted a study in 2012 about the effects of dogs in the workplace and found that dogs make people happier, more productive and less stressed.
“It’s a really positive impact on morale and communication and cooperation,” Barker says. “People without dogs would go by and see people with dogs and ask if they could take them for walks. And we also noticed people were much more connective. We call the dogs the ‘communicative energizer.’ “
Having pets around can prompt more breaks and movement throughout the day, and sometimes a quick stroll around the block can provide a fresh perspective. Short breaks throughout the day are shown to help boost productivity.
Pets are also powerful conversation starters and can allow your team to bond in ways they otherwise might not have.
Studies show higher job satisfaction with pet-friendly workplaces. Etsy has found that bringing dogs to work helps to keep employees’ spirits high and adds to the sense of community and connection. The company keeps a “doggie database” of authorized pets and on any given day has 4 to 10 dogs in the office.
Even virtual pets have benefits: Simply watching cute cat videos online has been shown to boost energy levels and increase feelings of happiness.
What pet-friendly looks like at Buffer
Since we’re a fully remote team at Buffer, we most often meet one another’s pets through video chats, social media and many stories.
Here are some of the companions of the Buffer team:
Cats: Kitty summits and cat overboard(!)
Happiness Hero, Amy, and her husband, Dan, working remotely, with their officemate, Henry.
Our engineer, Emily, said: “One of the main perks of working from home, for me, is being able to be around pets all day! One day, after watching me take a break to play with the cats, Adrian said – “Wow, I never realized how happy pets make you!” It’s true! I love being able to work side by side with my kitties! Having pets nearby during the workday is a great de-stresser for me. Adrian and I are also considering getting a dog soon, and it makes the decision even easier knowing that we’ll be able to spend time with a new pupper instead of leaving it home alone during the day!”
Our Happiness Engineer, Colin, shared one of his favorite working from home stories with his feline friend, Mr. Perkins:
“Once when we were living on the boat, I was in a Hangout with someone. Mr. Perkins was outside, enjoying the weather, and was usually very agile about jumping onto the boat, padding round the (very narrow!) sides, making his way across the roof, etc.
Not too sure what happened this day, but all of a sudden I head a flurry of scrabbling from the side of the boat (claws on steel is quite unmistakable!) and then the undeniable ‘splash’ as a cat-sized object fell into the river!
I walked briskly (running was too hard in the confines of the boat!) to the stern and looked out to see a very bedraggled cat pulling himself rather sheepishly from the river onto the bank. He trotted round to the boat and sheepishly jumped back on board, looking rather wet and pathetic.
Grabbing a towel, I gave him a good rub down, removing most of the detritus that had accumulated on him (he had landed between the boat and the bank where there was next to no current, so all sorts of ‘things’ tended to gather there, including at one point a rather large, bloated, dead rat – but that’s another story!).
He promptly went inside and commenced the longest self-cleaning session in cat history, after which he promptly went for a snooze.
I returned to HipChat and typed some words I had never expected to type in my life: “cat overboard”. Cue much concern which I was happily able to assuage. He never did fall in again – I think he learnt his lesson!”
Android engineer, Joe, and his friend, Jaspurr, like to code:
Engineer Mike started bootcamp one week after picking up this ball of fluff, Otto, who helps check each line of code.
Here’s a pic from one of our remote pet summits: Our product engineering director, Niel, up top with his cat Boytjie, meeting designer Steve’s cat, Simba:
Community Champion Bonnie’s cat, Kee, will come running from anywhere in the house when she starts talking on Zoom. Bonnie said. “She’s usually chewing on her earbuds, waving her tail in front of the camera, or doing acrobatics on my office chair. Makes for interesting meetings!” (And that’s her dog, Tuesday, under the desk, there!)
Hailley, our PR specialist, and Bonnie had a “Cats and Coffee” date once because they wanted to hang out, and also wanted their cats to be friends.
Dogs: Laptop warmers and code checkers
Our iOS developer, Andy, recently adopted his loyal little Watson, who helps him with app development (and is becoming a bit of an Instagram star in his own right!):
Community Champion, Nicole, received some help with mailing thank-you cards to Buffer customers from her dog, Honey.
She also recently adopted a new puppy, Dany, who has been more than helpful as a laptop weight.
Mobile engineer, Marcus, works alongside Mia. “She basically sleeps the whole day while we work, with some play pauses in between. She always checks on me in my office if everything is all right, and then after awhile goes back to her other sleeping place. And sometimes she bring a toy, to say ‘Hey, you need a pause?’ ”
Designer, Dave O’s, French Bulldog, Olive, made an appearance as a puppy! (Product Designer, James’s pug, Ruby was there to say hi!)
Matt, a growth analyst, shared these of his two dogs, Layla a boxer/basset mix and Lloyd, a lab/great dane mix. “One of the joys of working remote for me is that I can spend more time with these two throughout the day. They are awesome at helping me stay balanced with my work, reminding me when it’s time for a break or call it a day. They are big fans of remote work, as it means breaks to be outside throughout the day.”
Product designer, James, shared: “When I’m trying to work, Ruby always wants to see what I’m doing so she’ll jump up and put her legs onto the desk as if she was human. This is not too productive when I’m trying to type over the top of her. Ruby always needs to be either in front or on top!”
Engineer, Ivana shared this of Rea and Peggy sleeping below her desk: “It’s really tricky to work and move around with my chair. That’s their favorite place to sleep! My favorite part is that I’m able to have cuddling breaks all day long and I find those to be the most relaxing and a huge productivity boost. Every hour or two I take a small break to cuddle with my girls, or play for a bit, or go for a walk. They also love to join our syncs, especially (daughter) Zara who likes to say hi!”
Julia, Twitter happiness hero, said: “This is the star of my life, Zora. We’re together pretty much constantly – so much that I could probably tell you the number of times I left her home without me in the past week. She loves that I work from home and goes with me everywhere. My favorite cafe is even dog friendly. I’m in Philly, but my boyfriend lives in NYC, so we go back and forth together every couples weeks. Our most recent adventure was up to Massachusettes & Rhode Island to visit my parents. I made an instagram for her recently, so it has all of the goodies!”
Feathers, scales and more!
While dogs and cats are the most common sighting during a videochat meeting at Buffer, they’re not the only animals around.
Our android engineer, Joe, shared this one of Rocky (one of his four tortoises!)
A tortoise even jumped on a pair call with Hailley!
Community champion, Nicole, also has a flock of chickens and ducks, many of which have been sighted (and definitely heard!) in Buffer syncs:
Considering your own pet policy?
If you’ve got a physical office and might be considering a pet policy, here are a few things to think about:
- It can be good to consider employee allergies and plan accordingly.
- Encourage bringing well-behaved and healthy animals.
- Make sure there are areas the pets can go and be contained (perhaps a bed or two for dogs.)
- Provide food, water and access to outdoors or litter boxes.
If having critters around all the time might be too much, start small: once a month or once a quarter.
International Take Your Dog To Work Day is Friday, June 23, in 2017! (Sorry, there’s not an official “take your cat to work day!” but you could start one at your office!)
Over to you
Do you have any furry or feathered companions who have joined in your workday? Would you enjoy seeing animals in your work environment? We’d love to hear your thoughts (or even better – see pictures!) If you’re up for it, use #bufferpetsparty on social channels to share pics of your pets or office pets!