Many people are familiar with the use of dogs for therapeutic purposes. Therapy dogs are often deployed in rest homes, hospitals, disaster areas, and even courtrooms to assist with calming witnesses that have to give a stressful testimony. It’s been said that one of the main benefits of owning a dog is that they have the innate ability to break down the barriers of human communication. How can this help in the workplace then?
According to a study that was published in the International Journal of Workplace Management, the presence of dogs in the workplace significantly lowered the stress of their owners throughout the day. By looking at pet owners who were allowed bring their dogs to work, as well as pet owners that were not allowed to do so, researchers discovered that the groups who didn’t bring their dogs reported increased stress as opposed to the lower stress that was reported by the other group of people, who did bring their dogs.
Randolph Barker, a management professor in East London, conducted a study in which he monitored the stress levels of employees at a retailing and manufacturing business with a 14-year history of allowing dogs in the workplace. Of the employees that had their dogs with them, Barker found that half of those he surveyed felt that having dogs there was important to their productivity. Of the groups of people that did not have dogs, 80% felt that having dogs in the workplace was a neutral experience and had no negative effect on productivity.
So, could having your dog with you at the office be an option for your company?
According to a study by Virginia Commonwealth University, dogs are becoming increasingly visible in the American workplace because of the previously mentioned ability to reduce stress, as well as their ability to increase job satisfaction for employees. A high number of Americans feel as though having pets in the workplace makes people happier, leads to a more creative environment, decreases absenteeism, and creates a more productive work environment.
Of course, having your dog at work could have its potential disadvantages too. Some people are allergic to dogs, or afraid of dogs. There are other individuals that just don’t like dogs, and having them in the workplace could actually be counter-productive, as it would create more stress for those employees. Before implementing any pet policy, business owners and managers should consult with all employees, find out if there is any opposition to the idea of pets in the workplace, and if so, see if there is a way to manage the risks so everyone is comfortable.
There are a few tips that have been offered by experts, should an employer decide to let dogs in the office. These tips are:
- Mandate Vaccinations - Have employees show proof that their dog is up to date on their shots.
- Set a trial period – Have a “probationary” period to ensure that the dogs that are allowed in the building are well behaved and non-aggressive. The employees should also have full control and responsibility of the dog throughout the day.
- Establish ground rules – Is there a size limit? What happens if the dog has an accident? Should the dog be leashed at all times?
More often than not, as long as all employees are comfortable, having dogs in the office can be a positive, morale-boosting experience. It may even be beneficial to your client relationships. Tiffani and Sean Sauter, owners of a business called “Light Gallery Plus” in Southern California, say that their customers like having the couple’s yellow Labrador there, and will actually ask where the dog is when she is absent. The Labrador, named Lola, serves as a traffic driver for their business, bringing dog lovers and young families through their doors.
If you are still wondering if your canine would make a good business companion, consider this observation, made by management professor Randolph Barker, “They don’t judge us, and when no one else will listen to you, your dog will listen to you.”
Levin, Heather “Bringing Fido to Work. Productivity Booster?” FoxBusiness.com 8/3/2012 (8/6/2012) http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2012/08/03/benefits-taking-your-dog-to-work/
Hoare, Rose “Barking mad: Can office dogs reduce stress?” CNN.com 7/23/2012 (8/6/2012) http://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/23/business/office-dogs-stress/index.html
Cox, Lillian “Encinitas Dogs Who Bring Home The Bacon” Patch.com 7/17/2012 (8/6/2012) http://encinitas.patch.com/articles/a-460804bb