When we asked the staff at The Nerdery (which is “an interactive production company,” not a farm sprouting home-grown nerds, as you might think/hope) how they like having a dog-friendly workplace, they couldn’t wait to tell us. The Nerdery is a dog-friendly workplace, to be sure, but based on the volume of responses we got from employees and the average number of dogs in-office per day (28, in case you’re wondering), we think they deserve some special designation beyond “dog-friendly.” Dog-obsessed, perhaps? And so, we present the natural evolution of our Dog-Friendly Workplace series: “Dog-Obsessed Workplace: The Nerdery,” featuring crowd-sourced anecdotes from a variety of Nerds.
Sidewalk Dog: Can you give us a bit of background on the company?
Mark Malmberg, Communications Manager: Web development firm The Nerdery has offices in Chicago and Minneapolis where more than 300 self-proclaimed nerds/web professionals partner with creative minds and big thinkers to envision and execute their interactive projects, including websites, mobile apps and social media. More than 50 faithful friends (er, dogs) accompany their owners to The Nerdery—some only occasionally, some semi-regularly and some every day.
SD: Has the office always been dog-friendly?
MM: Dogs have been a part of Nerdery culture since day one. We’ve moved or expanded our office space eight times in as many years, and an open-door dog policy has been a must-have in every lease negotiation. When we began looking for office space in Chicago, our agent said, ‘I have dozens of places to show you.’ When we said it would have to allow dogs, he said, ‘I have one place to show you,’ to which we replied, ‘we’ll take it.’ Twice a month we have a professional dog groomer from Aussie Pet Mobile come into our Minneapolis office for most of the day, a service that 18 Nerds and their fine furry friends have taken advantage of.
SD: What do you like about bringing your dog to the office?
Janet Waack, Onboarding/Event Coordinator: It is really fun having my dog at work. Sadly, I can’t bring her in very often because she usually gets too excited about the other dogs, but when she does come in it is really nice to have my best little friend sitting under (or sometimes on) my desk all day with me. With dogs at work comes the risk of stepping in poo on your way in the door, or being goosed by a random wet nose, but I’m OK with it—the friendly tail wags and excited doggie kisses are worth it.
Jeff Larsen, Software Engineer:
I really enjoy bringing Onyx to work. We’ve worked out a schedule together and I think we do pretty well, productivity-wise. It is a nice excuse for people to stop over and talk to me and a good tool for me to be able to introduce myself to new people. Onyx comes with me every day I’m at the office. I don’t have any fun anecdotes except for when Onyx met Janet’s dog when she had the cone of shame on. Onyx HATED seeing that cone and is the only time he has ever barked inside the building.
Janet Waack (responding to Jeff Larsen): Hahaha, truth—that really scared the hell out of him.
Christina Martinez, Accountant: My cube neighbor and I each have a lab we bring in, which means there’s more than 100 pounds of happy dog in our cube! There are a number of human regulars who don’t have dogs, but stop by every day to play with our pups. When one of the dogs passes out in the hallway, we joke that they are speed bumps. I am able to stay late if I’m working on a project without worrying about getting home to let my dogs out. I get to go on two walks a day which is a nice forced break and keeps me healthy. I’ve also noticed I meet a lot more people because they stop to pet my dog. I’ve read about the health benefits of a walk after lunch and getting up from your chair on a regular basis, and I think dogs encourage that.
Tracy Fuller, Nerd Support: I love having my dog in at work with me! It helps to diffuse those situations where something is frustrating me; I can just turn to Jet and get a quick hug and a slobbery tongue and I instantly feel better and more able to take on tough challenges. I enjoy taking a moment away from my desk when we let the dogs play with each other. Fifteen minutes can really make a difference in my mood. I also find it hilarious when the name of a Nerd ends up on the office dog-grooming list. One of the things that strikes me most about having dogs around us is that it reinforces this underlying feeling that we aren’t just coming to work among co-workers, but rather that we work in a place that we love, among family. Some of our Nerdery family just happen to have four legs and drool profusely.
Nancy Nevin-Atwood, Accounting Assistant: Having my dog here at work is a total joy! I love how he gets up to greet me every time I come back to my little cube, and I think it’s amazing what these animals do for other people, too. I think it makes people feel comfortable and more at ease when they can walk by, look at or pet a dog. It helps having Kona here to give me a little break during the day to take him outside. I come back a little more refreshed and ready to tackle the next thing on my desk.
Dan Eichholz, Software Engineer: I don’t have a dog, but I certainly appreciate just seeing them around the office. If I am stressed out, taking 30 seconds to stop and pet one is a great way to relax.