Pooch perk: Pets at work to bust stress, build bonds

CHENNAI: Companies are doing everything they can to keep their employees happy, including allowing them to bring their pets to the workplace. People like Smita Rajagopal, who runs a communication and design firm in Nungambakkam, feel it boosts creativity. “When you get away from the computer screen, you also tend to think out of the box,” she says.

Many others agree. “I personally think productivity is far higher with a dog around. Also it is physically and emotionally healthier for the employee,” says Vijay Anand, owner of an investment firm in the city.

Offices also provide everything necessary to keep the animals comfortable. “You can even keep the pet overnight in our office as we have a special room, keep the AC on and provide food and water,” says Lajwanti D’Souza, editor-in-chief of Mumbai-based edutech company Pagalguy.com.

Allwin Agnel, CEO of Pagalguy, brings in his pet cat, a Maine Coon called Abhirami. And they have even provided a home to a couple of stray cats. The office cat, Ginger, found injured on the road, is today the only one with two drawers – to store pet food sourced from Thailand and to keep clean bedsheets and cover – and also has beds placed strategically to relax in.

With a staff of 45, allergies are a concern. “One of the women has an allergy but since we have a big space, she just moved her place so she is far away from the cat,” says Lajwanti.

Intolerant people, however, are a different deal, so they don’t even find a place on the rolls. “While recruiting people we check if they are animal-friendly and they are not hired,” says Lajwanti.

Anand is equally firm about his pet-friendly policy. “We tell applicants that if they are not comfortable having animals around, then it is not the place for them.”

Some of the office mascots even have dedicated facebook pages and blogs. Miko’s page, with some of her groovy looking pics, is regularly updated while Lajwanti has been running Ginger’s blog for the last three years. “Ginger is not a cat for us. He is not only our stress buster. We have also learnt to be more patient and compassionate as an office because of Ginger,” she says.

Experts are divided in their opinion on the emotional and physical benefits of having a pet at the workplace. “Pet therapy is good in a hospital environment as patients can benefit from the unconditional love and tenderness an animal can give but having an animal in office is just distraction,” says psychologist Dr Mini Rao.

Others disagree. “At C P Ramaswamy Aiyer Foundation, I bring my dog into the office, and two others also bring in their dogs and all of them are allowed to wander around as we have a big campus,” says president Nanditha Krishna. “It lightens the atmosphere, and makes people also bond a lot better.”


Date: 30/10/2015