Luring people back to the office could be ramped up in Paris with an offer to allow dogs at work.
The idea follows the example set in Suresnes (Hauts-de-Seine) where more than a dozen dogs accompany their owners to work in various administrative departments of the town where there is no contact with the public.
‘It didn’t just come out of nowhere’
“It’s part of a programme I started in 2008 to improve productivity by improving working conditions”, says Béatrice de Lavalette, the director of HR at Suresnes.
“We have improved gender parity across the services and we also ensure that at least 10% of the staff we employ are disabled.
“We have already signed 25 agreements to put all this in place, including projects like the provision of sports and keep fit opportunities during the day. It’s innovative and you won’t find it elsewhere in France.”
Studies show absenteeism reduces
The scheme has been running since September 2020 and Mme Lavalette brings her own dog to work every day.
“When people first suggested it, I began working with unions, doctors, psychologists, and researched studies that show it breaks stress, lowers blood pressure, and improves communications between workers. It benefits everyone.”
She says that multiple American studies show that with pets in the office, people work more efficiently, absenteeism reduces, and work satisfaction increases.
“When you pet an animal your heart rate goes down.”
Animals must be clean, chipped and vaccinated
After Covid, many people are looking to re-balance their lives, and try to retain some of the benefits of working from home and re-evaluating their lives at work.
“Offering pet friendly working conditions really helps us recruit,” says Béatrice de Lavalette.
“People have even asked to be transferred to us, because they want to bring their dogs to work too!”
She does not believe, however, that every animal or type of dog is a suitable workplace companion.
“We’re not talking about badly-trained, aggressive dogs or banned breeds. In theory we allow dogs, cats and fish but in practice people bring their dogs to work.
“The animals must be clean, chipped, vaccinated, treated against fleas, and everyone in that area of the office must be in agreement.”
She explains that in Suresnes an agreement about having animals at work has been reached with the unions, but that this hasn’t happened with any other unions in the public sector yet.
Other administrations which are considering the idea include Grenoble and Nice.
In the 5th arrondissement of Paris, a formal desire to allow dogs in the office has already been registered, and talks are ongoing to sign an agreement with the unions.