Can you remember an occasion in which you were very stressed out but somehow an animal’s presence helped put a smile on your face? Perhaps you played with or cuddled with your pet later that day, or encountered an adorable puppy on your commute home, distracted by its playful demeanor and wagging tail. Or real talk – since we all have done this – watched animal videos of cute dogs and cats on Instagram or Facebook for a few minutes periodically during the workday. For a moment you couldn’t help but smile, maybe even laugh, and forget about your worries. You suddenly felt lighter and happy.
Well, what if we told you that there are real, incredible benefits to bringing dogs into the workplace? What if you could actually be working right next to your favorite furball?
Dog-friendly workplaces are on the rise. In fact, several companies such as Google, Amazon, Etsy, Salesforce, and even Fitspot have already opened their doors to employees’ dogs. Some businesses are even providing additional pet-associated benefits such as company pet-insurance or “paw-ternity leave” (permitted days off for when an employee adopts a new dog). The Seattle headquarters of Amazon has even implemented water fountains for dogs adjacent to the regular fountains, containers filled with dog treats at reception desks as well as waste-bag dispensers along the paths outside between buildings.
You may be wondering what are the actual employee benefits of dogs in the workplace?
Improved Company Morale
Most people feel happier around dogs. In a work environment, having a well-behaved dog nearby can be very uplifting for employees, whether they wish to engage by petting, walking or playing with it, or simply by taking in its endearing presence. They instantly can lighten the mood in a room. Jen Reeder, a contributing journalist for The American Animal Hospital Association found support for this idea. “Having them by our side makes us happy, lowers our stress levels, and creates an environment that is comfortable, open, and flexible,” says Chris Meiering, director of innovation at Zuke’s, a natural pet treat company located in Durango, Colorado.
Dogs remind people to take necessary breaks from their work whether it’s taking a short walk with them or engaging them in a little playtime. This can be especially helpful if you have hit a productivity slump and feel stuck. Studies prove that dogs have calming effects, reduce blood pressure, lower stress, and make employees more cordial and productive. In a 2012 study, employees who were around dogs in the workplace reported feeling less stressed than employees who have dogs but left them at home, according to researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, dogs in the workplace act as a strong buffer to stress and provide exceptional “social support”, which is associated with lower levels of depression and better job performance.
Enhanced Social Interactions
Dogs have this effortless way of creating more connections between people. In a workplace setting, employees will be more apt to get up from their desks to take doggie breaks and initiate conversations with other employees who brought a dog with them. This creates an environment for camaraderie to grow organically and for interactions to occur that otherwise may not have happened. Replacements, a dinnerware retailer based in Greensboro, North Carolina, also took the puppy plunge, participating in the Virginia Commonwealth University Study and found that having dogs in the workplace improved interactions among staffers. Jordan Smith, editorial intern at Inc., interviewed Lisa Conklin, Replacements public relations manager and received her admission, “When I first took the job, I often learned the names of the pets before employees, and it helped me build a bond with everyone.” As employees bond this way, they are also more likely to collaborate and work better in teams, creating improved productivity on the job.
Gets People Moving
A dog in the office will surely get employees up from their desks more often to walk around for a few minutes throughout the day. Having a pawed friend to walk offers the perfect opportunity to take a brief mid-day stroll and experience some additional movement that otherwise may not happen. Smith also interviewed Jen Chappell, a customer service representative at Human Movement, a Colorado-based entertainment company. “We work long days and long hours. Having dogs around the office makes it fun, and makes us get out of the office and exercise” says Chappell. Taking time to recharge and move allows employees to come back to their work refreshed and more focused. The end result is higher productivity all around.
Reduced Health Care Costs
When people are less stressed, happier, and are more physically active, they are also healthier! Since dogs are proven to enhance these areas in human lives, they definitely can be considered a proactive means of staying healthy and could avoid health issues. The outcome is a magnitude of financial savings on a personal, professional, governmental, and medical scale.
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) found that pet ownership is responsible for saving $11.7 billion yearly. 132.8 million pet owners save $11.37 billion on physician office visits, while 20 million owners who walk their dogs five times a week show lower obesity and save $419 million in healthcare.
Helps Recruit Employees
We all know that people love their dogs. Companies of all sizes who recognize the importance of dogs in employees’ lives are one step ahead of the game and will have a competitive edge to attract future talent. In today’s job market, Millenials are seeking employers who foster an improved work-life balance. Imagine an employees’ satisfaction knowing they will have the convenience of not having to hire a dog walker or sitter to take care of their furry friend when they are at work or similarly, that they don’t have to hurry home.
Helps Retain Employees
Appreciation is sure to follow. Employees know when they have a good thing going, and bringing a dog to work is an incredible perk. Once an employee experiences the difference in company hospitality, their loyalty to that company will strengthen because they know their employer cares about them and their needs. Employee retention rates can only increase. Reeder also found support for this notion. “Employees feel supported and have a better perception of their employers if they can bring their dogs to work,” says Steven Feldman, executive director of the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation.
Helps Save Dogs
According to the American Animal Hospital Association, humans and dogs directly benefit from each other and it’s evident. In 2004, researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that humans who petted a dog for 15–30 minutes during a study experienced approximately a 10 percent drop in blood pressure, while the dogs’ blood pressure dropped as soon as the humans began petting them. So when your pet stares at you with that look of love in its eyes, believe it! Remember that a day at the office provides more stimulation and attention for your pet than a day spent home alone confined to a restrictive space. He or she will undoubtedly thank you and all your coworkers for it with lots of kisses and happy gratitude. Who can be stressed around that?
And the most enriching aspect is that more people are able to adopt a rescue dog if they can bring their dog to work. You can help make that possible! Talk about making a difference.