Benefits Of Taking Dogs Into The Office
The wellbeing benefits associated with interacting with pets has led to an increase in the use of animal-assisted interventions in certain structured visitation programs within nursing homes, healthcare and educational settings. Prior to this, dogs in the workplace were limited to allow trained assistance dogs public access in office buildings to support their owners who have visual or hearing difficulties. But with the increased interest shown in the value of pet dogs to human health and wellbeing, bringing your dog to work days have also risen.
It has been shown that the presence of a companion dog reduces stress both in the home and when completing a challenging task such as those within an office setting. Dogs appear to bring increased social support, communication and friendships with others. If allowing dogs to come to work with their owners results in improved work-related quality of life, then this is an avenue that businesses can take to improve staff retention, employee satisfaction and create a more positive working environment. However, only a minority of businesses allow dogs in the workplace, and at the moment there is a lack of strong scientific data to support the benefits. Current research is based on qualitative data which relates to perceptions of pets in the workplace. For example, dogs in the workplace seem to increase the perceptions of positive social interactions at work, as well as reduction in stress that owners feel at leaving their dogs home during working hours. Owners who had their dogs with them at work reported less stress over the day than those who did not.
An internationally advertised survey of dog-owning employees was conducted with the aim of providing a quantitative assessment of the impact of bringing your dog into the office. This was based against work related outcomes such as commitment to work, work place wellbeing, as well as dog related outcomes such as pet dog attachment and general dog wellbeing. Participants were recruited via several channels such as press release, social media and through the University of Lincoln’s database of dog owners. Some of the findings of this survey included the following:
- Females residing in the UK responded the most to the survey
- The age category of 26-35 years of age was most represented, and comprised of people who worked mainly for commercial organizations
- The majority of employees worked 21-30 hours in the office in a typical week and had been 1-3 years in their current employment
- Significantly more people take their dog to work if they work for a not-for-profit organization
- Working less than 6 months in current employment was associated with a lower than expected count of “often” taking your dog to work, whereas working 6-9 years in current employment resulted in higher than expected counts of “often” taking your dog to work
- Bringing your dog to work regularly appeared to be more common in smaller offices with fewer employees
- Bringing your dog to work regularly may be associated with having a dog that received assistance dog training and working dog training
- Bringing your dog to work resulted in vigor, dedication, absorption and total work engagement being higher in those who brought their dogs to work often. It also showed lower intentions regarding wanting to leave. Friendship acuity was increased in those who brought their dogs to work often, and there was a significant difference in social media use during break time at work
Regarding work-related quality of life, general wellbeing was higher, as well as overall work quality of life in those taking dogs to work often. Employees who took their dogs to work reported better work-related outcomes. The presence of a dog has been shown to increase social interactions between individuals; since social support is related to stress, quality of life and working performance, increasing feelings of being supported in a social setting would likely bring a range of these work related benefits.
When employers look at setting up dogs-in-the-workplace policies, an important consideration may be dog size. It appears that larger dogs may reduce total work engagement and absorption with work than smaller dogs because bigger dogs in the office create a perception of greater hazard and reduced office space which may affect working conditions. Dog breed may also be another consideration along with dog training. Interestingly, owners whose dog received general obedience training combined with agility and working dog training showed higher turnover intention than those whose dogs received general obedience training, agility training and Kennel Club training. These three factors – dog size, breed and training represent important factors to consider in the future of workplace policy.
The overall takeaway is that the results of this study add to the growing body of evidence indicating the potential benefits of bringing dogs to work, especially their value in increasing employment engagement and commitment to work, work related quality of life and work based friendships. However, it must be noted that business owners and employers need to have well designed policies put into place in the workplace to make this undertaking a success.
Link to full original research article:
Front. Vet. Sci., 07 May 2019