Photo: Ashley Siebels
Looks like having a furry friend around is not just fun — it’s good for you, it might be a plus at work, and you could even get paid for it. A Scottish brewery, opening its first US office, is trying to bring “puppy leave” — playfully nicknamed “paw-ternity leave” — to the States.
Employees over at Scottish craft beer brewer BrewDog, which is opening its first US location, now have the option to take a week off to play with and train a new dog in the comfort of their own homes, while still collecting their paychecks, the company said in a statement and video touting its pro-puppy agenda.
The company is bringing Puppy Parental Leave — an idea from the UK — to all of its international locations, including the US headquarters opening on 42 acres of land just outside of Columbus, Ohio. The new brewery will boast a new, 100-barrel brewery, office spaces, a restaurant and taproom — and will welcome dogs to its bar.
BrewDog, a Scottish company known for its marketing stunts and high growth, has been a champion of man’s best friend in the workplace for a while. The founders’ late dog, Bracken, was called “commander in chief” and “when he wasn’t stealing the brewers’ lunches, chewing CAMRA’s sandals or snoozing on malt sacks, Bracken liked nothing better than to pop into one of the BrewDog bars to give the staff a high five, meet some of his fans and do a spot of bar snack quality control.”
The BrewDog founders gave Bracken something of a corporate mythology, tracing his high productivity and influence at work. “Our secret weapon in tough business deals, Bracken could turn on the puppy dog eyes and win any negotiation. Below that lovable chocolate coat was a lean, mean analytical business machine. Warren Buffet often consulted him for advice.”
The BrewDog founders paid tribute to Bracken when they announced their new policy. “Ever since Bracken, the original Brew Dog, first watched James and Martin mash in batch number one of Punk IPA back in 2007 dogs have been central to our way of life. Puppy Parental Leave will support nervy canines and their owners alike in those all-important first few days of the greatest relationship a person can have (except children),” the company said.
So it makes sense that along with beer production, the critters remain at the heart of its company culture. After Bracken passed, the company adopted Simcoe, a “hop pup.” Employees are already allowed to bring their dogs to the office, and the company’s bars are open to the furry creatures.
Outside of BrewDog, however, pet leave is rare.
Pets improve the physical and mental health of workers
It is undeniable that American workers work long hours and are always looking for emotional support, including from “work spouses.” Naturally, we rely on pets for additional companionship.
As of 2015-2016, some 79.7 million American homes had pets, with the majority of 54% owning dogs and 43% with cats. Once you include other animals, from horses to freshwater fish and reptiles, roughly 65% of American homes own pets, according to the American Pet Products Association.
Not surprisingly, studies have shown that pets have a positive impact on mental health.
It’s common for pet owners to think of their animals as members of their family, and pets may even benefit the heart, according to a study by Karen Allen of the State University of New York at Buffalo. Allen found that there is evidence for the “pet effect” that leads to lower blood pressure and higher resilience to heart attacks among pet owners. Pets can also help children with autism and benefit the mental states of people struggling with chemical brain imbalances, studies have shown.
Pets are also a positive influence on productivity at work, as many dog-friendly employers have found out. (There are fewer cat-friendly employers, perhaps because cats tend to sit on keyboards, which prevents humans from being as productive.) People reported being less stressed at work when their dogs were present, as opposed to non-pet owners who said their stress levels rose at work without an animal nearby, said a study by Virginia Commonwealth University.
Pet accommodations are still rare
Even with all the benefits of pet ownership, however, not many US workplaces make accommodations for people to incorporate pets into their lives.
While the death of a pet can be as devastating as losing a human friend, for instance, few employers offer bereavement leave for a dog or cat’s death. One of the few that does is Mars Inc., which does “offer one day or more off, flexible hours or freedom to work from home after a pet’s death,” the company told The Wall Street Journal.
Will BrewDog’s policy start a US trend of pet-friendly policies in the workplace? It may be an uphill climb, but given how much pet ownership contributes to the physical and mental health of employees, it couldn’t hurt.