Pets at Work: Is There a Place for Buster or Fluffy?
We love our pets. They provide us with unyielding love and affection and are valued members of our families. Anyone who has ever owned a pet can attest to the fact that their mere presence contributes health and emotional benefits to their households.
According to an Ipsos Reid survey conducted in April 2011 on behalf of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and Hill’s Pet Nutrition, approximately 38% of Canadian households report to owning a cat and 35%, a dog. It is estimated that there are approximately 5.9 million dogs and 7.9 million cats living with families in Canada.
With that many pets living in our homes, they obviously fulfill a basic need in our personal lives, but they can also contribute to our wellbeing at work. Consider the following ways.
Just looking into the warm, adoring eyes of your German Sheppard or Border Collie will instantly melt your heart and your stress away. The simple act of stroking and interacting with a pet is enough of a distraction to quickly remedy the effects of stress.
In fact, according to a 2012 research study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, job related stress levels fell among a group of Greensboro, N.C., employees when they had their dogs by their sides. On the other hand, stress levels rose for their coworkers who were without their pets or had none at all; clearly demonstrating the health benefits to workers accompanied by their pets.
Improving workplace relationships
There is nothing that breaks the ice faster among strangers than the mutual affection of a dog or cat. Imagine how the presence of well-behaved pets in the workplace could build team spirit and strengthen bonds between colleagues who may have little else in common. The presence of a pet at work is an excellent catalyst to strengthening work relationships and contributing to employee engagement.
A 2010 study conducted by Central Michigan University reveals that dogs in the workplace can lead to more trust between coworkers and that leads to more collaboration among team members. These results indicate that dogs in the workplace can do more to build team spirit than a costly and time consuming teambuilding exercise.
More focused work
For employers, allowing pets into the workplace can have the added benefit of employees focusing better at work, as they are less likely to rush home to tend to their animals.
According to a 2008 study of 50 small and large companies by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, companies that allow pets in the workplace not only have employees who are more willing to work longer hours, but also have a lower rate of employee absenteeism.
By spending quality time with pets at work and tending to their needs throughout the day, employees can guiltlessly remain at the office to complete their assignments with their beloved friends by their sides.
Despite the potential advantages of bringing your pet to work, there are at least four important matters to consider:
- Ensure there is a clear pet policy for the office. Cats and dogs together would probably create chaos. Pets at the office need to be well-behaved, healthy and up-to-date with their vaccines.
- Ensure no employee would be adversely affected by the presence of pets. Any pet allergies or pet fears need to be addressed ahead of time.
- Ensure that you are providing a safe environment for your pets at the office. A designated area for the pet within the office or cubicle must be created and respected to ensure their own safety, as well as that of the other staff is maintained.
- Ensure that your pet’s needs are met. Adequate food, water and exercise are necessary to maintain a healthy and happy pet. The pet owner is obligated to ensure that their pet’s basic needs are met at the office.
While allowing pets at work is not the cure-all for all that ails, the presence of a pet, when appropriate, can certainly contribute positively to the overall ambiance of the job. A pet-friendly policy can be initiated only if all employees are on-board and then trialed gradually to safeguard the integrity of the workplace.
Pets can work even in large corporate environments. With a staff of 1,700, EA Canada, a video game developing company located in Burnaby, B.C., has 190 registered dog owners and offers many canine accommodations. They provide an off-leash area complete with complimentary poo bags and have addressed employee allergies to pets by designating pet-free areas, where no animal can enter.
Bringing pets to work, even as a monthly or annual event can bring together groups of employees and establish camaraderie based on the common love of animals.
With “Take your dog to work day” falling generally on the second to last Friday in June, it might be a great way to test the waters, which may then lead to a more comprehensive pet policy.