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Pets at work! Taking the pooch to work leads to satisfaction and less stress!

on Tuesday, 09 July 2013. Posted in Managing Stress

dog to work

Those people who are dog lovers may welcome the idea of taking their dog to work. Moreover, a recent study has shown that taking a dog to work leads to greater job satisfaction, better workplace communication and less stress.

In 2012 researchers Barker and team (no pun intended), conducted a preliminary study of the effect of the presence at work of employees’ dogs on stress and organisational perceptions. What they found, was encouraging, for those who love the idea of taking their pooches to work.

The study took place at Replacements Ltd., a service-manufacturing-retail company located in Greensboro, North Carolina, USA, which employs approximately 550 people. For over 15 years, the company has permitted employees to bring their dogs to work. Approximately 20 to 30 dogs are on the company premises each day.

Video of research:

The study found that all workers at Replacements Ltd. were more satisfied with their job than the average worker, whether they had a dog at work or not. This included satisfaction with communication at work. Unique dog-related communication in the workplace may contribute to the higher scores in this area. For example, employees without a dog had been observed requesting to take a co-worker’s dog out on a break. These higher scores on communication are consistent with earlier studies that show increased interaction between workers when dogs are present.

In the Barker study, employees who took dogs to work were still more satisfied than those who didn’t, on a number of measures. These included the quality of communication at work, benefits, rewards, promotion, operating procedures, as well as pay. This dog group of employees also experienced less stress. While there were no significant differences between the groups on physiological (measured) stress there were significant differences in regard to perceived stress. Over the course of the day, stress declined for the those who had dogs at work and increased for those without dogs. And, the non-dog group had significantly higher stress than the dog group by the end of the day. A significant difference was also found in the stress patterns for the dog group on days their dogs were present and absent. On dog absent days, owners’ stress increased throughout the day, mirroring the pattern of those who never brought a dog at work.

The Barker study did not examine the relationship between pet ownership and physical activity. However, it was mentioned in the study that employees with dogs (as well as those without) would sometimes take the dogs for a walk in their break. This may have good health benefits. Other studies have shown that dog owners engage in more physical activity and walking and are more likely to achieve the recommended level of physical activity than non-owners of dogs. There are potential benefits for this exercise for obesity. In 2012 the America Heart Association also reviewed relevant available studies on pet ownership and cardiovascular risk, around 40 studies in total. They found health benefits of pet ownership including lower blood pressure, faster recovery time after stress. It is also very likely that pet ownership is associated with decreased cardio vascular disease risk.

So, taking a pooch to work could be a great idea! It may lead to better job satisfaction, better workplace communication, a bit of fun at work and less stress. And, dog ownership in general is good for blood pressure, obesity and cardio-vascular fitness. However, not everyone is a pet lover. Some people have allergies too. Therefore workplace policies regarding dog behaviour, cleanliness, and noise are practical considerations organisations should explore in order to minimize negative impact and maximize positive impact of dogs at work.

Take your dog to work! Where to start?

You could give it a go for one day at work! Take your pet to work day is in June. Various international organisations offer support to help you make this day a success. One site we found and quite liked was https://bringyourdogtoworkday.co.uk/

Author:

Dr Kathryn Owler, Director Joyworkz Center for Wellness at Work

References:

Barker, R., Knisely, J., Barker, S., Cobb, R. & Schubert, C. et al. (2012). “Preliminary investigation of employee’s dog presence on stress and organizational perceptions”. International Journal of Workplace Health Management. 5(1): pp. 15-30

Levine, G., Allen, K., Braun, L.T., Christian, H.E., Friedmann, E., Taubert, K., Thomas, S.A., Wells, W.L. & Lange, R.A. (2013). “Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association”. Circulation, 127:2353-2363

Tips, training and resources

Staff training: Training for staff can motivating and help staff know that you care. Joyworkz offer a range of workplace wellness seminars on topics including stress management, that can assist staff to be healthy and happy at work.

A wellness programme: Consider developing a wellness programme targeted to staff needs. If you need help getting started, consider Joyworkz SimplyWell™ package, which takes the stress out of designing a workplace wellness programme.

Visual prompts: Visual prompts in the workplace can be useful. For instance, consider the range of free Alsco posters that encourage staff to manage their stress well.

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