At R+M, a branding agency in Raleigh, North Carolina, pets have been part of the picture since day one. For 12 years, Zoie the cat was the pet-in-chief, moving among three different locations as she accompanied her owner, CEO Beverly Murray, to work.
Dogs were always welcome over the years, but about five years ago, the company made their pets-allowed policy official, and since then, they’ve only seen their culture bloom. From helping build trust with clients to boosting productivity, they’ve seen firsthand the benefits of incorporating pets into work-life– that’s why they were a finalist for our 2012 Pets at Work contest.
We caught up with the Vice President of Brand Culture, Susan Nettles, to get the full story on just how pets are helping their workplace thrive.
Susan describes their approach to having pets at work as a “village mentality,” as in “it takes a village to raise a child” … er, pet. She has been deeply impacted by the trust she’s built in her co-workers as she’s seen them help nurture her one-and-a-half-year-old Labradoodle, Mousse, at work. From taking Mousse on walks to teaching him tricks, she has seen firsthand how the affection and attention of her co-workers has fostered Mousse’s character.
“Just the other day, Lauren, one of my co-workers, taught Mousse a lesson in patience,” she shares. “She put a little treat on his paw and taught him to wait to eat it until she commanded him that it was okay. That was awesome. And what it really does for the dog is it allows him to build trust with other people.”
Welcoming Clients’ Pets
The agency’s mission is to help people connect with brands on an emotional level, and they focus on brands that value health, well-being and social responsibility.
Susan believes that letting clients bring their pets into the office can let R+M team members see a truer part of the clients’ character.
“When a client is interacting with a dog, it pulls them out of ‘business mode’ and reveals their emotional side,” she says. “That gives us the opportunity to make a stronger human connection.”
Making Everyone a “Dog Person”
Not everyone at R+M has to be “a dog person” to benefit from this culture.
“A perfect example is one of our team members who doesn’t have experience with dogs. He’s taken this opportunity to educate himself,” she says, explaining a recent conversation they had about translating her dog’s “language.” For example, she helped the team member understand the difference between Mousse barking because his “play” button has been engaged and him barking when the delivery man is at the door.
Part of what makes their pet-friendly culture successful is their active approach to making sure everyone’s comfortable with the pets that visit. They listen for people who might have problems with pets and try to avoid any issues that could come up. If a visiting client has pet allergies, they will make sure no one brings pets in that day, and thoroughly clean any pet-friendly areas.
Lowering Stress, Raising Productivity
Consideration is a common theme at R+M. Maybe that’s because the pets around the office help everyone adopt a healthy mindset. Nettles believes there are many emotional benefits to bringing pets to work, and that R+M is proof.
“You can read all the articles about how [having pets at work] lowers stress and blood pressure … the list goes on and on,” she says. “But I’m here to tell you they are all true.”
Nettles believes that pets help employee’s relax and let their creativity flow, and also gives them a frequent excuse to get up and improve circulation by taking a pet outside. She also believes people who bring pets to work actually become more efficient, because they have to follow a schedule and get their work done in time to take their pet out at lunch, and home on time for their dinner.
There’s no question about it– pets have helped shape R+M for the better, thanks to the company’s village mentality. Learn how other workplaces have become pet-friendly –and see how doing so changes workplace culture for the better.