Dogs at Work and Corporate Social Networking

I'm not talking about all of us working like dogs every day (although sometimes it feels like we have to bark and growl our way through 70-80 hour work-weeks, right?), but every place that I have worked, start-ups and Fortune 500 companies, I hear people talk about wanting to bring their pets to work.  

During the dotcom boom, I saw it happen - anything to keep people happy at work in a super-competitive hiring market. I've also seen executives do it, having their assistants take mid-day poop walks, while forwarding calls from a headset (seriously).  

Question is, does this common request for canine companionship at work mean people just miss being around their pets? Perhaps, but I'd venture a guess that it's an indicator of a need for community beyond the daily work-like-a-dog grind.

OK, admittedly, I'm one of these people.  I signed the petition to have an official "bring your dog to work day" -- although the thought of controlling my dog at work around other pets while I'm working seems a bit daunting.  We looked at ways to make it happen and between building code restrictions, liability issues, allergic colleagues, it just never seemed realistic.  Closest we ever got was to host pet adoption days in our lobby or common areas (a great idea to support your local shelter, for sure), but not really meeting the need.

The American Human Society says that morale and productivity increases in places that bring pets to work, and pet-friendly employers talk about reduced stress levels and fewer absences.  Check out for more about dogs at work programs (hmmm).

Back to the community concept though.  Talking to others about my pet seemed to be an outlet, a creative stimulant, a way to identify with colleagues, much like parents sharing kid stories with other parents.  Yes, there are moms' groups, dads' groups, running groups and more in many companies, all possibly filling these same needs.  So what do they do for the business aside from giving employees an outlet to find balance?  And more importantly, should they be required to contributing something other than increased morale?  Were talking about the company formally creating employee affinity groups based on non-business related topics or interests.

I've seen corporate diversity programs fund organically formed groups with the requirement that they contribute to the company in a defined, business-benefit delivering way.  That got me thinking about how online, internal social networks can work to connect employee interest groups, and can they grow into a benefit for the business?

Could setting up internal social networks like personal blogspaces, affinity group wikis, and idea-sharing sites help form communities that ultimately benefit the business, or will they detract from more than contribute to the bottom line? Will they work for any group or are they just dogs diverting our attention?

CIO Insight magazine last year called Corporate Social Networks, "The Next Big Thing" and touted how they help people do their jobs.  No argument from me on that one, but where does that business relationship building intersect with personal information sharing in so many companies that are establishing blogging policies?

What do you think?

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