by Anne Buchanan
A growing number of companies are welcoming canine companions into their corporate culture. And with good reason. Research continues to point out the benefits for those whose work life includes the presence of a pup.
Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University report that employees who bring their dogs to work experience lower levels of stress throughout the work day, have greater levels of job satisfaction and think better of their employer. Pets can provide a productivity boost as well. When the results of the study were released, appropriately named VCU professor Randolph Barker said, “Dogs in the workplace can make a positive difference. The differences in perceived stress between days the dog was present and absent were significant. The employees as a whole had higher job satisfaction than industry norms.” In case you’re wondering how they tested, they gathered saliva samples to measure levels of stress hormones.
“Pet presence may serve as a low-cost, wellness intervention readily available to many organizations and may enhance organizational satisfaction and perceptions of support” Barker’s study concluded. Another advantage is that taking your dog for a walk gets one up and away from their desk for a few minutes. Away from the phone and e-mail, one can do some of their most creative thinking and come up with new ideas for a project they’re working on, or a different way of approaching a problem. Plus new research shows how dangerous extended sitting may be for our long-term health.
THERE NEED TO BE RULES
Needless to say, there need to be ground rules, and every office should have a pet policy. An employee with a dog allergy is a deal-breaker, or even someone who is afraid of dogs. Always alert clients and potential clients coming to the office that you are a dog-friendly office, and offer to make other arrangements if they prefer. “You have to have the right kind of dog” said Greta Springett. “If a dog was aggressive or barked a lot it wouldn’t work. It also helps that we have offices where we can shut the door and cordon them off if need be.” Several other people at the Delphic office also bring in their dogs on occasion – including the boss – but they have yet to have more than one at a time.
SOME FINAL NOTES
We do occasionally have to explain some background barking when we are on client calls, but those on the other end are usually delighted to hear we are a dog-friendly office. In fact, we find our dogs are often the first topic of discussion when we arrive at client meetings. Everyone wants to know how Lacey and Romeo are doing. And dogs have become part of our identity as an agency; we are involved in rescue efforts, annually contribute to shelters, and even helped broker an adoption by posting a stray we found outside our office on our Facebook page.
Being a dog-friendly office has certainly set us apart in the marketplace. But it goes far beyond that – dogs have made our workplace more humane, more creative and more energetic. What leader wouldn’t want to cultivate that type of culture for her team?
Below are four tips to help introduce pets to the office, and coworkers to pets.
by Charlie Piscitello
- Start slow for first-timers
To ensure good behavior, start pets out with short time increments in the office. Reward pets for good behavior, such as laying at your feet quietly and resisting the urge to jump excitedly on coworkers. For anxious or overly excited dogs, pet parents can soothe Fido with the Thudershirt Dog Anxiety Solution – a breathable, lightweight vest that wraps around pets and provides gentle comfort.
- Use simple commands to ensure a peaceful workday
“Place” and “stay” cues will help pets understand what their pet parents expect from them while at the office and provide a recognizable area for the dog to go when a break is needed. Add the command “place” so he associates this area with the word. Once the pet understands “place,” add the command “stay.” Soon, pets will understand that this is the place to sit and stay.
- Expel excess energy before heading to the office
A half hour before heading into the office, take him or her for a walk to burn off any excess energy. During work hours, bring a toy like a KONG Dog Toy that can be filled with treats and provide hours of entertainment.
- Breaks are beneficial to both parties
Breaks can help lower stress and are linked to having a smaller waistline, lower body mass index (BMI), and lower triglyceride levels. The same goes for pets. Taking short breaks outside with pets will allow them to get a change of scenery, as well as let them take those ever important potty breaks.
Dogs are a Company’s Best Friends
Perhaps one of the best additions to add to your company’s HR program, scientists say, is to bring your dog to work.
by Christine Deakers
THE SCIENCE OF CUTENESS
Researchers at Hiroshima University conducted a study concluding that looking at pictures of baby animals improves productivity by nearly 17%. The study says, “For future applications, cute objects may be used as an emotion elicitor to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work.” Participants’ focus in the study increased, “induced by the cuteness-triggered positive emotion.”
WHEN PET POLICIES BITE BACK
Not every company has puppy love despite their pet policies. Administrative Assistant Suzie Smith of a Toronto-based marketing group said, “Some management is not a big fan of having dogs around. At one point a couple of months ago, a dog came into a conference room where a meeting was going on with my boss and an important client. Another dog then followed into the room and they had a fight. It was not good, and my boss was really angry. Stricter guidelines followed soon after.” While policies may become stricter, some companies roll with the punches. Auditor Christina Yum visited one of her clients, a start-up company, to find an unwelcomed surprise by her desk on her first day.
EASTWICK: A DOG CASE STUDY
One of the vital perks to Eastwick, essential to the everyday atmosphere of the personable yet professional office, is how many employees bring their dogs to work. To Eastwick, dogs are a morale boost, and handy for employees. The dogs get taken on regular walks outside, both at the San Francisco and Sunnyvale office, and get to move around. As long as they are well behaved and not a distraction, dogs in the workplace really are a win-win situation.
Photos. All photos are courtesy of Dubinsky Fine Arts. Tim Flach’s most recent work is the series More Than Human. This exploration of how humanity sees and shapes other species extended a body of work that has become a unique and important visual inquiry into anthropocentrism. His images have been acquired by major public and private collections. He has won the International Photography Award’s Professional Photographer of the Year in Fine Art, and has been nominated for the Prix Pictet.
Published in the hard-copy of Work Style Magazine, Fall 2013