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Coworking with pets

Dog Stella at Office Nomads in Seattle (Picture: Christy Kinksey)

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Coworking is about rethinking all the existing rules of work. One of the unquestioned rules of a traditional office is “no pets allowed”. So it makes sense that many coworking spaces throw out this standard prohibition and allow members to bring their dogs to work. But are animals in the workplace a help by creating a friendly communicative atmosphere or do they create more problems than they solve? Deskmag spoke to several pet-friendly spaces about their experience with coworking canines.

Susan Evans from Office Nomads in Seattle says they are pleasant but not particularly work-generating: “I don't think I can say that dogs at the office increase productivity or communication. I think for some people, having a dog around provides a pleasant opportunity to take a break and play, which could increase productivity. But many members love chatting with dog owners about their dogs and how they're doing, which does generate conversation.”

She also admits that having her pet dog Buckley in the office can sometimes lead her away from work. “The dogs can definitely be distracting from time to time. I'd say that the benefits of having the dogs around outweighs the distractions, but for the most part, the distractions are pretty minimal. We rarely hear complaints from folks about the dogs, so I'm pretty sure that the distraction level is minimal.”

Stress-relieving and communicative

At The Coop in Chicago, pets are considered part of the stress relief system: “They do make the space more social, they’re cute and cuddly and moving around all day,” Coop’s Joceyln Schwartz said, “They’re great conversation pieces, and good for when you’re having a stressful moment because you can go pet them, walk them or play with them for a bit.”

Stefano at Cowo360 in Italy says the occasional visiting pet helps make the space more social: “For sure they are a little distraction, but it gives a reason to talk and to get to know each other. Until now, nobody has been scared off by them, they actually attract people,” Stefano says.

Attracting new customers

At The Coop, pets are more than just an addition, they are the star attraction. Eli the resident golden retriever features in many of The Coop’s promotional pictures, and guests often ask about him when they drop in to inspect the venue. He has become part of the advertising.

Office Nomads have had a similar experience with their resident dog Buckley: “We often joke around and call Buckley the ‘closer’, because he pushes potential members over the edge and they decide that they definitely want to sign up,” Nomads’ Susan Evans said.

For other spaces, being “pet friendly” is just about being open to all people and different forms of working – which is the essence of the coworking ethic. At Beahive in New York state, Scott Tillitt says their pet policy is rarely used but widely appreciated.

Potential problems, but not often

Most spaces agree that each pet is accepted on its own merits. At The Coop, the “pet friendly” policy only extends to “friendly pets”: “The pets we usually have here aren't a distraction because they're well behaved, but I can see how it could also be a problem. We're lucky, but we also don't accept any pets all the time. We've never had any problems, but the day we do, I guess the pet is banned,” Jocelyn from Coop said. Pet friendly coworking spaces often don’t have formal rules, but assess each animal individually.

Office Nomads ask that their members keep their dogs within eyesight at all times, and usually the dogs remain on their leads at their desks. Given the huge size of the space (5000 sq/ft), having two dogs at one time is rarely a problem: “We have had a few dogs that didn’t really work out here, but typically the corresponding member can see that and then doesn’t bring the dog in,” Susan says.

To find a pet-friendly coworking space, simply visit Deskwanted and use the Advanced Search box, where you can select from many different options to narrow your search, including the “pet friendly” icon.

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