Working from home can be a lonely gig for social butterflies like me. I crave human interaction and enjoy a bit of banter during the day. Co-working spaces offer a great alternative, even for a few days a week. They're a dime a dozen where I live, with new offices popping up every few months. I eagerly check the listings and am wowed by hip-looking interiors covered in plants, complete with slick handmade desks and beer on tap. I'm spoiled for choice. I want to try all of them.
That is, until I get to the image of the office dog, and I have to move that co-working space into the "no" pile.
Office dogs have become a growing trend. Big tech companies like Google and Amazon have "dog-friendly" policies, and this ideology seems to have trickled down into hundreds of workspaces across the globe. Back in 2016, the Society of Human Resource Management put the number of employers allowing pets in the workplace at 7 percent and rising.
To this, I say: No more.
When I'm working, I don't want a dog anywhere near me. In fact, I prefer to not be around dogs at all. If I see one on the sidewalk coming my way, I make a beeline for the other side of the street to avoid any interaction whatsoever. This reaction is rooted in my childhood: An unfortunate incident with an Irish Wolfhound when I was about 7 years old left me with a slight dog phobia. When I was 10 I spent an entire afternoon on top of a kitchen table because a family friend's Jack Russell puppy wouldn't stop yelping at me. I have since desensitized myself somewhat, but if I have a choice between spending time with a dog and not, I'll always choose the latter.
Fear is not the only — or even the biggest — reason I don't want to share my workspace with a dog. I'm also incredibly allergic to them. Dogs and cats. Both of those small creatures can turn me into a wheezing, sniffling mess in a matter of hours.
So when I see a job advertised as being "pet-friendly" or "dog-friendly," I want to scream: "What about humans?! Offices are for people, not pets!"
I know I'm not the only person to feel this way. The problem is, most people who don't want dogs in the office are afraid to voice their objections. They're scared of being labeled a dog-hater or of being ostracized by coworkers. And unfortunately, they may have some good reason to be fearful. In some companies, people are segregated from the rest of the team if they voice their trepidations about dogs.
It doesn't help that there's a swathe of articles and studies claiming dogs in the office make workers happier and decrease stress levels. I beg to differ: Dogs are distracting! Have you ever tried walking down the street with one? People just want to stop and pet it. Can you imagine trying to fill out spreadsheets with a puppy frolicking around the room? Productivity would surely plummet. For me, knowing there's a dog in the office actually adds stress to my day, and I can't work properly. It's completely counterproductive. And honestly, I'm not convinced business owners care that much about your welfare or your stress levels, or even about your dog. Call me skeptical, but I believe the main reason there's a growing trend in office dogs is to get people to stay at work longer. If poochie is by your side all day, there's no need to go home to feed or walk him. You can do it all from the comfort of your workspace. Which is good for the company, but adds a whole new layer of misery for people like me.
But businesses don't think of people like me when they're contemplating retention or devising new ways to lure staff. Instead, they spend time and resources drawing up rules and regulations to ensure dogs and people can work in harmony, but mostly to avoid litigation.
I once worked in an office where the dog used to come in after walks covered in muck and grass. It would head straight for my desk by the door and rub its dirty, wet head all over the rug then sit by my feet and chew on its fungus covered paws. Really? That's cute? It nearly made me sick everyday, but I couldn't say a thing because it was the boss' dog. I vowed never to put myself in that position again. Why should I have to tolerate that while I'm at work? Or anywhere, really.
And once there is a dog in the office, there's no going back. It's a slippery slope to forever playing second fiddle to Fido. Certain owners, who cannot conceive of anyone having an aversion to their beloved pup, continuously offer them up for licks and pets, or allow them to wander the room with wild abandon, sniffing butts and crotches as they go. Oh, but they're so adorable!
Well, I'm over feigning interest. No, I don't think your dog's cute. Nope, it's not funny. And no, I don't want to see any photos. Do you want to see photos of my kids? Do you want them running around while you work, playing with your stapler, and rubbing food on your laptop? I didn't think so. Now can we all get back to work and leave the animals at home? Thanks so much.