Businesses in metro Detroit look to pets for employee morale

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published November 7, 2012

 Dax the great Dane cozies up next to his owner, Connie Trylong, of Livonia. Dax came to work with Trylong as part of a special event hosted by Level One Bank in Farmington Hills.

Dax the great Dane cozies up next to his owner, Connie Trylong, of Livonia. Dax came to work with Trylong as part of a special event hosted by Level One Bank in Farmington Hills.

Photo by Deb Jacques

For many, a beloved pet is the key to turning a house into a home. These days, though, pets are stepping out beyond the doggy doors and are making their way into businesses of all kinds, much to the delight of employees and customers alike.

On Aug. 3, Level One Bank in Farmington Hills participated in its second annual Dog Days of Summer event to raise money for the Animal Welfare Society of Southeastern Michigan. For a $5 donation, employees were welcome to wear jeans for the day and bring their furry friends into the office for a little workplace companionship.

According to Level One Bank President and CEO Patrick Fehring, inviting dogs into the office for the day is one of many morale-boosting events the bank facilitates for employees each year.

“We tried it last summer and it was a big hit,” said Fehring of the Dog Days of Summer event. “It does cause for a certain amount of interaction. It helps maybe generate a more personal relationship amongst employees who have a common interest in pets. We find that more employee interaction is beneficial, and it’s a unique way of engaging some of your other employees and learn more about them that maybe you didn’t know before.”

Level One Bank isn’t the only business to jump on the doggy-bandwagon. Nationwide, companies large and small are encouraging employees to bring their pets to work or are making room for an “office pet” for everyone to enjoy.

In Rochester, WHOO U R boutique is more than just an upscale resale shop to benefit local charities — it’s also home to Charlie the cat, the resident feline who has been welcoming guests into the store for more than four years.

Lonna Harlow is president of WHOO U R, a nonprofit organization that looks to collect gently used clothing, furniture and home goods to be sold in its boutique shops. Proceeds from the items go to nearby charities, such as Grace Centers of Hope, The Community Housing Network, The Pink Fund and Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan.

Harlow said Charlie helps bring a warm and inviting atmosphere to the store.

“Normally, he’s just hanging out somewhere — on a chair or in a basket or something. He’s a little more laid back, not so much of a greeter,” she said. “People get a sense of home when you have an animal in your store. It just kind of cozies up the place. The kids come in looking for Charlie all the time; he’s got quite a reputation, and he’s well known in the area.”

The trend of bringing pets into the workplace is one that will likely continue to gain popularity amongst business owners, according to Terri Mallett of the Michigan Humane Society. As the enrichment program manager for MHS, Mallett knows how valuable it can be to have a little bit of stress relief in the middle of a working day, and four-legged friends can provide just that.

“It’s a huge stress reliever for people. I think it prevents people from taking themselves too seriously,” she said. “But it’s not a free-for-all, because it’s business first.”

Mallett said that allowing employees to bring pets to the office has been shown to bolster productivity in many situations.

She added that allowing animals to come to work can be just as beneficial to pets as it is to humans. Mallett noted that on many occasions, she’ll bring her own dogs into the MSH for a day of work, and the excitement of the day often wears them out.

“When they’re home by themselves, they sleep about 18 hours a day. When I would take them to work, they would be nodding off in the car on the way home. It was so cute,” she said.

“They’re social animals. That’s really what they want, is to be with us. The more opportunity they have to do that, the happier they’re going to be.”