Is Google Going to the Dogs? The Benefits of Dogs in the Workplace

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Researchers have been telling us for years that dogs are good for us, even if they’re sometimes a little hard on our carpets, gardens, and shoes. Petting a dog can actually lower your blood pressure; having a canine companion may reduce depression and loneliness; and children raised with dogs less likely to have allergies.

A study conducted by the University of Missouri – Columbia has also demonstrated that petting a dog releases mood elevating hormones such as serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, while decreasing stress hormones.

Nursing Homes and Assisted Living centers have been catching on to the health and mental health benefits of canines and felines alike. For many residents, visits from Pet Therapy volunteers mark the highlight of their week and a growing number of facilities now come equipped with full-time resident cats.

A handful of universities have likewise discovered the benefits of allowing students to keep a dog in their dorms. Being allowed to keep a dog reduces homesickness and depression. Students are less likely to stay out all hours partying or to oversleep and miss a class if they have a dog that needs to be fed and taken out on a regular basis. College is supposed to be as much about learning self-discipline, time management, and responsibility as it is about mastering academic material. What better way to practice those skills than by being fully responsible for a pet, especially when Mom and Dad aren’t around to help?

Now businesses are starting to catch-up. If your company operates out of an office building in Manhattan and you don’t want your employees distracted by having to be home at a certain hour to take Fido out, what do you do? Make every day a Bring Your Dog to Work Day. And that’s exactly what Google has done.

According to Google, dogs play an important role in enhancing the quality of life and  boosting office morale.

When I worked at Montgomery County Government‘s Human Resources Offices, we originally occupied a suite in a small building across the street from the County Courthouse, a building we shared with an audiologist. Our building backed up to an alley and we began noticing a medium size dog knocking over garbage cans in search of food. The little fur this dog had left (most of it having been lost to mange), hung in thick knots. Rags, as we began calling him, was terrified of people. None of us could get near him, but we were able to leave dog food and water out for him. We even took turns running up to the office on Saturdays and Sundays to feed him. Before Rags showed up, we had been a loosely knit staff, each of us holed up in our respective cubby-hole-of-an-office. Now we grew closer, our audiologist-neighbor included, as we worked towards the common goal of taming and  saving Rags.

Weeks of food, water, and kindness slowly paid off. Rags no longer bolted the moment one of us set foot out the back door, but waited some thirty feet away while we put down his food and water. Over time, that distance was whittled down to ten feet, then five, and then, miracle of miracles, he accepted an especially tempting morsel of food (from someone’s lunch, no doubt) from a human hand. Another week passed and we were able to lay a gentle hand upon his head, then stroke his back and, finally, slip a collar on him.

Rags was far less traumatized than we expected when Dennis, our Safety Officer, loaded him into his car and drove him home to his girlfriend who was a professional dog groomer. A few medicated shampoos and couple of trips to the vet later, Rags began growing a lovely, silky black coat which fell in gentle ringlets much like a Labradoodle’s.

In the meantime the audiologist, a gentleman well into his sixties, whose children were all grown and gone, convinced his highly reluctant wife that the one thing their meticulous, expensively furnished two-story home with a spaciouse fenced yard needed was a dog. And so Rags went from  a back alley life of rags and dumpster diving to an upscale suburban life of riches: two square meals a day, frequent walks, a bed to call his own, and all the toys and rawhide bones a dog could want. Unfortunately, the latter did not prevent Rags from chewing the corner of the rug. Luckily for Rags, by then  the couple had grown far too attached to him to toss him back out onto the streets. He had filled the hole their children had left behind, even if he had left a hole in their luxurious rug.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to boost employee morale, consider allowing your staff to bring their dogs to work with them. Or maybe your office could commit to fostering a dog for a canine rescue organization, with one employee taking on the responsibility of taking the foster dog home nights and weekends. You could even pick a breed to serve as your company mascot.

My husband and I own an air conditioning and heating company  and we have adopted not one, not two, but four rescue dogs, three of whom accompany me to the office each day and head home with me each night. (One pictured here as a puppy, fresh out of the animal shelter).  I may not work for Google, but at least I enjoy one of the same perks as Google’s employees: my dogs by my side.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – NSA Taps into Fiber Optic Cables

WebIt’s the sort of thing you would have expected if George Orwell and Jules Verne had been contemporaries and collaborated on a novel.  The Department of Defense creates a vast Hypertext Transfer Protocol Network and allows the private sector to take it over and expand it worldwide. Rather than passing through the pesky step of securing private data through the system’s service providers, the government simply taps into the data as it passes through the undersea fiber optic cables stretching from one continent to another. Suddenly the World Wide Web is one vast party line, at least from the NSA’s perspective.

That’s the theory presently being promulgated by investigative reporters with the New York Times. According to The Times‘ article, NSA May Have Hit Internet Companies at a Weak Spot , the data centers belonging to companies like Yahoo and Google are “are locked down with full-time security and state-of-the-art surveillance, including heat sensors and iris scanners.”   If anything, it’s easier for government spies to tap the Level 3 Communications Infrastructure, the so-called backbone of the  World Wide Web, made up of  high capacity optic fiber cables owned by companies like Verizon, the BT Group, and the Vodafone Group.

Nearly everything you and I do online passes through this backbone in route to its final destination.  I  guess you can say that the NSA has taken up global  spinal tapping: sampling the flow of information for infectious or inflammatory elements.

In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Vernes wrote “The sea is everything. It covers seven tenths of the terrestrial globe… It is an immense desert, where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides.”

This statement is perhaps more true now than ever before.  The sea is a very busy place indeed. And the NSA is one very busy body.

Is Social Media Blitzkrieg Hindering Innovation?

The Three B’s

Bubble BathThere is a common consensus among scientists that the world’s greatest discoveries occur in the Three B’s: the bed, the bath, and the bus. Why? Because it’s not when you’re running actual experiments, performing mathematical calculations, or analyzing data  that the mind makes its quantum leaps. It’s during the downtime between those activities, when your mind is at rest, that it intuits the pattern or the breakthrough discovery spawned by those hours of work, study, and experimentation.

 The Social Media Blitzkrieg

 What happens when there is no downtime? How many bus and train riders today spend their entire commute texting, tweeting, or surfing the web on palm-size electronics? How many people sleep with their cell phones next to their beds or even nestled beside them in bed?  You don’t have to be Theodore Twombly to fall in love with your Personal Device.  And Personal Devices can be among the most jealous and possessive of lovers.  When surveyed half of workers age twenty-one to thirty-one, say they would circumvent any company policy banning the use of personal devices at work or for work purposes

Even those employees who don’t live on their Personal Devices find themselves buried under avalanche after avalanche of plain old-fashioned e-mail.  We are in a state of constant sensory overload.  How can we have an inventive, work-  or life-changing thought when we can’t even hear ourselves think?

Playrooms

Ping Pong at Google It’s ironic that the very industry that landed us in this midst of this constant e-noise is the one that has recognized it must carve out a time and a place for its employees to play or to chill or to simply be. High Tech companies are creating spaces which encourage employees to rest their overworked brains, so that they can logoff, shutdown, and reboot.

Most Silicon Valley companies feature ping pong and foosball tables in their offices. The most popular way to get around Google’s block-size New York office is by scooter. And see those bookcases along the wall? They’re secret passages:  doorways which open onto reflection rooms.

This trend of creative spaces has already made its way across the pond. Mind Candy in London has a Wooden Tree House Room and a Gingerbread House for holding meetings.  Its offices also include a “coloring wall and quiet areas that look like Hobbit holes.” Ticketmaster’s London office sports “ a metal slide that staff can take to reach the bar area, where table football, a jukebox and pinball machines await.

Touchdown!

 The nights Germany carpet bombed London, the city’s citizens  shut off every last light. Maybe what we need to do is forge a daily social media blackout of, say, thirty minutes in our workplaces. During those thirty minutes all employees will take a furlough from all forms of social media. They can get up and walk around, talk to each other face to face, get a cup of coffee, or even work (imagine how much work you could get done in thirty uninterrupted minutes!). And imagine, just imagine, if  some employees took  a few deep breaths and stared  into space, or opened their blinds and looked out the window, or constructed a goal post out of pencils and rubber bands and thumb-kicked a triangular folded-paper football over it, what creative breakthroughs they might have?  Fresh products. Cutting edge services. New and improved ways to reach their customers.

Me? I’d kill for an office with bath. One of those deep Victorian tubs with bear claw feet and a bar of French milled soap and some bubbles.  Logoff. Shutdown. Reboot.