The UK has earned a reputation for being a nation of dog lovers. There are more than 9 million dogs living in households across the UK, with almost one quarter of British families owning one or more. The comfort and companionship that dogs provide is second to none. Businesses are recognising the impact our canine companions can have on morale and productivity and are now encouraging employees to bring their pets into the office.
Google, Amazon, Ben & Jerry’s and several other internationally successful businesses welcome dogs into their premises, for instance Google, Amazon and Ben & Jerry’s all have pet-friendly policies. Some companies have created specialist job titles for their office pets. Euka is the Vice President of Canine Communications at P&G Petcare, while Milford is the Chief Executive Dog at Build-a-Bear workshop.
Employee amusement aside, studies have shown that dogs can bring a number of financial and work-related benefits, such as lower levels of stress and improved workplace morale which in turn leads to enhanced employee performance.
Stress levels can be reduced by allowing staff to bring in their pets
US researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University found that employees with access to dogs became less stressed as the day progressed than those without access. The researchers suggested access to dogs boosted morale and increased job satisfaction, whether people had access to their own pets or other people’s.
The study examined 75 workers at a manufacturing company and compared those who brought in their own animals, those who owned dogs but left them at home and staff who did not own pets. During a week long period, the researchers measured job satisfaction and compared employee stress hormone levels using saliva samples.
During the course of each work day, stress levels of employees with their dogs present declined by 11%. For non-pet owners and dog owners who left them at home, stress levels increased by up to 70%.
Dog-friendly policies can boost employee cardiovascular health
Numerous studies into cardiovascular health have found that owning a dog can significantly lower your risk of developing heart disease. The simple action of petting a dog has been proven to reduce blood pressure and has also been associated with lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Having dogs in the office also gives employees an excuse to get out of the workplace and take a walk during their lunch break. Keeping active during work hours is absolutely vital as the sedentary office lifestyle has been linked to obesity, diabetes and several other health issues. An office dog provides a constant reminder to get up and take a brief pause from your screen.
Office productivity can be improved if employees gain regular exercise throughout the day. When an individual exercises, blood flow to the brain increases which sharpens alertness and ability to tackle big projects. Furthermore, regular exercise can improve the body’s immunity to illness. Absenteeism costs the UK economy an estimated £36 billion each year. Encouraging staff to exercise could help cut the number of sick days staff take and reduce the financial impact it has on business.
Dog allergies and animal phobias need to be carefully considered
Office pets are not always the most sensible solution to workplace morale issues. Despite the many health benefits of allowing dogs in the workplace, there are certain aspects that could also prove to be detrimental to an employee’s health. In the UK, more than 5.4 million people suffer from asthma. 40% of sufferers are also sensitised to dog allergen. In a scenario when an employee allergic to dog allergen comes into contact with an office pet, they could suffer from rashes, panic attacks and in extreme cases severe respiratory disorders.
In addition to animal allergies, some employees may have a genuine phobia of animals. Many people would not find a dog in their workplace a calming presence. Instead the dog may become a source of stress and could severely hinder their productivity.