Sometimes All it Takes is Working Together

For some people, bringing a pet to work is a privilege worth fighting for. For Jamey Erickson, a “no pets allowed” policy ended up being less of a barrier than it seemed.

When Erickson started Minneapolis-based digital creative agency Sevnthsin, he knew dogs would be essential to their creative process. Why?

They'd already helped him get through many all-nighters working.

"I used to share a space with some friends of mine and they would always bring their dog in. We just wanted something to liven up the fact that we were going to be working all night on a freelance project," he says.

An Unexpected Barrier

Getting Your Boss on Board

First, talk up how pets could improve productivity and boost morale. Add flow charts if your boss is visual. Anticipate any questions using our FAQ guide. Next, share stories of companies similar to your own who have successfully allowed in pets. If all else fails, share this with other employees who also want pets at work and start a coup d’og.

Dogs quickly became an everyday part of life at Sevnthsin, but when the agency moved into a bigger space, they ran into a problem they had never anticipated.

There were no dogs allowed. 

"They just said you can’t have dogs and we said, 'Well, why not?' 'Well, that’s the rules.' But why?" he asks.

For the employees at Sevnthsin, the ability to bring dogs to work was worth fighting for - or at least worth spending a lot of time researching and creating advocacy for. They considered pets just as much a part of their culture as their Twin Peaks-themed conference room.

Erickson started looking around the area, taking note of which types of businesses allowed pets at work, and made a list of 27 total to present to his leasing agent and landlord. It worked. His leasing agent, Chad Blihovde, quickly called him back and explained that the main reason that there were no pets allowed was that it had never come up before. It turned out that the building owner, Peter Remes, was a dog-lover himself, and was interested in the idea of allowing pets in his properties.

Jamey's dog Major helps keep work fun.

The Recipe for a Creative Space? Plenty of Dogs

Remes’ real estate company, First & First, is on a mission "to build inspired environments that remind us that our time on this planet is brief and that is our human imperative to create." Many of his properties are warehouse spaces that are renovated to hold creative businesses like digital agencies, coffee shops and breweries. A dog-lover himself, he suspected that allowing dogs could make these spaces even more creatively inspired.

"I thought this was a great opportunity for First & First and [Sevnthsin's new building] The Broadway to let people know that we do [allow dogs]. That this is who we are. We want creative space and creative companies, and they want their dogs," Blihovde explains. 

"Everybody brings their dog to work in the creative environment," Erickson says.

Setting the Rules

The three worked together to establish ground rules so that everyone could understand their responsibilities and keep things running smoothly. From creating liability waivers to preventative measures that ensure dogs are harmonious citizens in the building, they hashed out a plan. 

"We went from a feeling of sheer frustration and helplessness to feeling awesome in four weeks' time," Erickson says. Now, Sevnthsin is settling into their new space, and they're happy to make their dogs a part of that.

As he summarizes it, "At the end of the day I’m a firm believer that life is much more than just what you do from nine to five. If I can find a way to get a dog in my office, it’ll make it that much more fun for everybody; then I’m going to do it."

Break Barriers in Your Workplace

Inspired to start making your workplace pet-friendly? Our Pets at Work toolkit can help you get there.

Lessons from Sevnthsin

1. Start by doing your research. Find similar companies in the area that allow pets at work, and make a list to show how common it is. You can even contact those companies to get their tips for making everything run smoothly. 

2. Have a talk with your landlord, building manager, leasing agent and whoever may be relevant to the discussion. Start by listening and understanding their concerns. They’ll be a lot happier to listen to you in return. 

3. Be willing to work together to create liability waivers and guidelines so that they can understand just what allowing pets in the building will involve, and what the building owners will be responsible for. The more you can make your business take responsibility for anything that may arise, the more successful you’ll be.

4. Share your success story, so that others can gain inspiration in their efforts to make their own workplace pet friendly.

Visit our Pets at Work section for even more tips on breaking barriers to make your workplace pet-friendly.