Emily Writes visits Flick Electric Co’s HQ to learn why they think having dogs in the office hasn’t just made their workplace happier, it’s made them more productive too.
Nobody is quite sure how Flick HQ in Wellington became a dog office. Apparently, someone brought their pup in. Then another person did. Then another. Georgina Ball, owner to the impossibly adorable French bulldog Mooshi, says that’s just how it is.
“It organically worked itself out as the company grew. Flick was started by people wanting to challenge the status quo in this industry, so they weren’t afraid to try something different in the office too. Now we’ve seen what it does for the mood and culture you wouldn’t want to go back. We hope our dogs help other businesses see how having pups in the office is totally doable.” As I’m taking notes, Mooshi races past me with Milton – a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – hot on her heels, skidding along the concrete floors.
Flick’s chief product and technology officer Josh Webb predicts my question almost before I ask it. “I’m not going to say they’re not distracting sometimes. But maybe a distraction sometimes is a good and healthy thing. It encourages you to stop. And we’re always telling people to get up from their desks and stretch or take a break.” Josh has two babies and has worked at his desk with one in a front pack. “We’re like a big family here, and some families include dogs. We are yet to see a reason not to have them around”.
Software developer Paul Brabet would be heartbroken if he didn’t have the dogs around. When I ask about distraction and productivity, he’s emphatic. “It adds to your productivity because you’re happier.” When I ask him if he has a favourite dog – as little Charlie, a fluffy Yorkshire Border Terrier stares up at him – he is quite horrified: “I could never choose!”
Studies show Paul isn’t wrong about productivity. One study I found wasn’t about dogs specifically but spoke to productivity – it found that employees who are distracted once an hour perform better than those who continue on without a break. Another study suggested that on days when dogs were not in the office, dog owners’ stress increased throughout the day. Those who could take their dog to work, on the other hand, became less stressed throughout the day.
But you don’t really need a study to know that cuddling a dog helps you destress. And at Flick dogs are always available when an employee needs a pick-me-up. Are most of the dog-specific studies run by Big Dog Food? Yes. But are you going to tell that to your boss when you have the chance to have a floofy round boi on your lap? No you are not.
It’s hard to know how many workplaces in New Zealand allow dogs in the office, but there’s likely quite a few. Head of engineering Ben Amor, owner of a 50kg Swiss Shepherd named Kaiser, says the Flick office is his third “dog office”. Ben even asked about Flick’s dog friendliness in his job interview. “He’s my best mate, and being able to bring your best mate to work is just awesome,” he says as Kaiser reaches for another treat. “You can see the benefits around the whole office, it’s just generally really good vibes. Everyone is keen to see Kaiser.”
Is there drama? Ben suggests there isn’t. Other than the time Kaiser took a dump on an extension cord. “It’s about responsible dog ownership. If you know your dog – and you use common sense – it’s going to be OK. I trust my dog implicitly and I’m responsible about it. If you knew your dog was going to be a dick, you wouldn’t bring him into the office.”
It sounds sensible to me. But what would someone with allergies say? Chief marketing officer Sunil Unka seems almost apologetic when he admits he has mild allergies himself – but that didn’t sway his decision to join Flick. Sunil was told Flick was a dog office during his interview. “I actually liked it,” he said. “That said to me that this is the type of culture I want to work in. If they’re flexible about dogs, they’ll be flexible about other things too.” Now, given the chance, Sunil says his preference would be for a dog office over a dog free one.
The success of Flick’s dog policy is probably most evident in Charlie. I see him first, sitting on web developer Lisa Conti’s knee as she works. Lisa is not Charlie’s owner.
“We used to have an employee, Thomas, and his pup Charlie was our longest office dog in residence. He was like a staple at Flick. When Thomas left we missed Charlie so much we started an internal message channel called “Charlie’s Angels”. His new office isn’t dog-friendly so now we pick Charlie up on the way to work and he’s still here with us.”
Many staff tell me about dogs who still come back even after their owners move onto other workplaces. Staff who don’t own dogs feel they have all the benefits of dog ownership with none of the responsibility. “I take a dog out for walks at lunch. It’s a great community way of raising a pup,” Lisa says.
Operations analyst Izzy O’Connor adores dogs but she doesn’t own one. She’s a huge fan of having dogs in the office. “If you’re having a stressful or anxious day, you can have a cuddle and just smush their little faces. You can get out of the office and clear your head. When my niece visits me I can grab a dog and we can go and take them for a walk. The dogs adore you and just patting them cheers you up. It one hundred percent without a doubt gives me an incentive to come to work.”
Seeing the mood in the office when dogs aren’t there tells management everything they need to know about whether the dog-friendly office idea is working.
“There was this one day when there were no dogs in the office and it sucked,” Izzy says.
Mooshi chews on a Christmas decoration. Kaiser sleeps at Ben’s feet. Milton watches Mooshi. Charlie sleeps on a chair by Lisa. Everyone keeps working.
“It really sucked.”
This content was created in paid partnership with Flick Electric Co. Learn more about our partnerships here.
Subscribe to The Bulletin to get all the day’s key news stories in five minutes – delivered every weekday at 7.30am.