Puppy in the office
The Prezi office in Budapest is lively as usual, even if it is in the middle of the Hungarian summer holidays. Employees are seated outdoors in the sunny courtyard, chatting or working in front of their computers surrounded by the herbal garden. Indoors people are working more focussed with updates of the software or serving the users with support. One employee is however taking a break by playfully blowing soap bubbles, whilst another plays with a dog called Olga.
It is allowed to bring dogs to work at Prezi. It is even promoted, as dogs are seen to lighten up the atmosphere and provide a feeling of being at home at work. Several employees attest to the effect of what they call ‘the Prezi dogs’, and speak warmly about the way the dogs pull people together and make them more relaxed when problems are to be solved. During meetings another dog functions as a ‘stress consultant’, as it is sent around, from lap to lap. When Olga was a puppy she even became a bit too popular since she drew so much attention to her. ‘I am afraid that she will lose all her fur since everyone is cuddling with her constantly’, a woman in the HR unit whispers to me and giggles. Anyhow, the dogs at Prezi seem to enjoy the rich social life the contemporary office space provides.
Olga –one of the popular office dogs, here in Prezi’s lunch restaurant.
Having dogs hanging around in the office also opens up for a specific form of management of the employees. Moods can be directed at work in a very subtle way via cuddly management. The dog cannot force anyone to be happy at work - this is just a common consequence of their furry presence. The dog thus facilitates self-management, no matter if this started as an intricate top-down management strategy seeking to direct a ‘culture of fun’, or as a self-organised doggy day care by some of the employees.
However, the dogs in the office have also showed less positive sides. I am told a story about one dog that frequently misbehaved. This particular dog used to search the rubbish bins for food, making a mess that required extra cleaning. It did in addition try to reach for food in the common coffee lounges - food that only is supposed to be served to the humans in the office. On top of that the dog even bit someone. This doggy intermezzo gave rise to increasing discussions about pets at work and the opinions differed regarding the restriction of this particularly unruly dog. According to some employees, it was definitely in need of more top-down management and discipline. The problem was eventually solved, but not by the owner. Conclusively, even dogs and the negotiation of their anthropomorphic status have become part of the posthuman office politics in Hungary. The office is now a space taken beyond management of the human population as it includes management of dogs, followed by a renegotiation of the dynamic boundaries between the civilized human and the uncivilized animal.
Ákos Hochrein taking a break with soap bubbles left over from a mentoring program for women interested in software.
Annika Skoglund, David Redmalm and Karin Berglund