Since the first Take Your Dog to Work Day way back in 1999, a growing number of companies have been exploring the benefits of allowing employees to bring pets to work not just on one day each year, but every day. After all, if pets are great companions at home, increasing our health and feeling of wellbeing, why not allow them into the workplace? Early research shows that this is one change to working practices that could prove to be a win-win for both employers and workers.
In the same way that dogs visit children in hospital and elderly folk in care homes to cheer them up, it’s been found that pets at work can do exactly the same for their owners. There are measurable drops in cortisol levels and therefore higher productivity in staff who are able to chat to, or stroke, their pet during times of workplace stress.
But the benefits don’t end there. Dogs can also play a part in relationship building – empirical evidence from one study shows that employees trust each other and work more collaboratively in meetings where a dog is present. What manager wouldn’t want that in a project meeting?
Pet owners themselves report that they take less time off work when allowed to have their pets in the office, and the health benefits of walking a dog during the lunch break are beyond question. In fact, some companies have taken this even further, and have instituted walking meetings, in which dog walking is combined with planning, blue-skies thinking or conflict resolution within a team to positive effect. Co-workers, it appears, show increased productivity even when walking a colleague’s dog, as they find that getting away from the desk and enjoying some fresh air fosters greater creativity and increased focus.
Around 20% of employers in the United States already allow their staff to bring pets into work, although the idea has yet to catch on in Europe. It’s important, of course, that pets are well-behaved and properly trained, but that said, what employer would not want to embrace such a low-cost but effective way of improving productivity?
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