Bark No.1 large company, according to employees
The COVID-19 that has sent Americans home to work for the past two years has been a boom for pet adoption. More than 23 million households nationwide have welcomed a new pet during the pandemic to help family members cope with feelings of isolation. Now that people are heading back to the office, some of these new pet owners are wondering how to take care of their canine companions. Unfortunately, many send them back to shelters.
If you work at Bark, you don’t have this dilemma. Long before the pandemic, the pet retailer had developed a culture that encouraged employees in its New York and Columbus offices to bring their dogs to work. In fact, on his careers page, he even tells potential employees that “it would be a little weird if you didn’t bring your dog to work. To be in Bark is to have human and dog colleagues.
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Bark was named the #1 large company to work for, according to employees, as part of Columbus CEO Top Workplaces 2022 program.
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The power of employees to be able to work alongside their canine companions was reinforced by a recent survey conducted by the company to explore the challenges dog parents face when they return to the office. One in three dog parents think they will be happier and less stressed at work if they have their dog around, and 28% think their life would be more comfortable if they had that option. And 72% of dog parents who have already returned to work miss their dog while they are back in the office. The survey also revealed that pet owners will miss their dogs far more than their children or spouses.
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“Employers we talk to, including our peers or large corporations, are always interested in how to create that environment where [you] can bring dogs into the workplace in a way that both employees and dogs are comfortable with,” says Rustin Richburg, Bark’s human resources manager. “We’ve always done that. It has always been part of our DNA. Our culture is built around our mission as a company. It’s simple and straightforward. Make the dogs happy. Everything we do stems from this mission.
Bark was founded in New York as BarkBox by Carly Strife, Matt Meeker and Henrik Werdelin. The company, launched in 2012, opened an office in Columbus in 2015 where it currently has 333 employees. In addition to the original BarkBox – a monthly box of themed toys and treats – the company also sells a themed collection of super tough toys, treats and chews as part of its Super Chewer line; a chewy duo plus toothpaste under its Bright line; and healthy, personalized meals under its Eats range. Partnerships with major retailers like Amazon and Target have helped fuel growth.
The company, which went public in 2021, has around 2.3 million active subscriptions.
Shelby Mason, senior community and engagement coordinator at Columbus, says the company believes people are its strongest asset. Even though the company is now publicly traded, “the people-centric approach keeps Bark down-to-earth and somewhere you want to be every day,” she says.
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Mason’s work has a direct impact on corporate culture. Her team plans what she describes as “interesting and engaging events to create meaningful experiences, community building, and brand integrity here at Bark.” Dinners with your dog, weekly wellness classes, taking your (human) child to work, drag queen bingo, and family nights are some of the events employees can attend.
“When you bring together a bunch of dog-loving weirdos with one goal, ‘to make the dogs happy’…you’ve already created a sacred space,” Mason says. “The next part is maintaining that. Bark supports employees holistically – unlimited time off, comprehensive benefits, an employee assistance program focused on mental health, employee resource groups, meaningful outings with co-workers, and happy hour every day. days past 5 p.m. – Well, it’s gotten a little earlier lately – Bark has a space for everyone to meet up. We know our employees make us great, so the answer is always “Yes, and your dog is invited too.”
Bark’s Benefit Package includes comprehensive pet insurance. The company is also a strong advocate for promoting dog-friendly spaces, community-based abandonment prevention services, and responsible sourcing and repatriation.
Dogs have also been an integral part of Bark’s return-to-office strategy. Last year, the company introduced COVID-sniffing beagles as part of a pilot program. The dogs were trained by BioScent, which trains medical scent detection beagles in partnership with the Florida International University Detection Dog Program. Dogs are able to detect a positive case with 98% accuracy. If a dog approaches an employee and sniffs that they are positive, the beagle will sit down. If negative, the dog will just keep walking.
“We wanted to show the ability of these puppies and what they are capable of and educate others around different alternatives around dog power that we really haven’t embraced as a society,” Richburg said.
Bark has a hybrid work environment structured around what makes sense per team. Some teams come some days for… face-to-face meetings and other times they work remotely. “The approach,” says Richburg, “is where can we be most productive, most effective while maintaining a level of culture and community within our teams as well.”
Laura Newpoff is a freelance writer.
500 W. Broad St. Columbus 43215
Business: Bark makes products, content and experiences for dogs and their people. It launched in 2012 with its first subscription product, BarkBox, and has since expanded with multiple subscription offerings.
CEO: Matt Sweet
2021 turnover: $378 million