I used to have a job where the bosses encouraged all employees to bring their dogs to work. It was an animal welfare organization, so this policy shouldn’t be too surprising. The office was located in the basement of an old house with access to a huge back yard. It really was doggy nirvana. My little guy, Owen, would alternate between sleeping on my desk (yes, on my desk, which probably explained the pound of fur that a repairman once removed from my keyboard) and playing with his canine friends. What a life.
It was a good life for me, too. As I worked, I didn’t have to worry that Owen was getting bored or otherwise out of sorts at home. When things got tense, I could grab him for a quick snuggle. On breaks, I’d step outside to throw a stick or take a stroll with him for a few minutes.
My employer also benefited from the arrangement (as long as we overlook the keyboard incident). I was much more likely to stay late or come in early knowing that I wasn’t going to have to leave Owen at home for an extended stretch of time. Happy employees are productive employees, and I was much happier having Owen with me than spending the day apart.
A paper looking into the effects that bringing a dog to work has on employees was recently published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management. The researchers divided employees into three groups:
DOG: dog owners who brought their dogs to work
NODOG: dog owners who did not bring their dogs to work
NOPET: employees without pets
I didn’t find the results too surprising.
Although perceived stress was similar at baseline; over the course of the day, stress declined for the DOG group with their dogs present and increased for the NODOG and NOPET groups. The NODOG group had significantly higher stress than the DOG group by the end of the day. A significant difference was 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 the NODOG group.
Pretty neat. In contrast to people without pets or to those who left them at home, employees who had their dogs with them actually experienced less stress as the day went on. I have no doubt that the dogs also experienced less stress on the days they went to work with their owners.
But let’s be honest. Not every dog is an ideal candidate for becoming a workplace companion. Canine coworkers need to be well-mannered, clean, and impeccably housetrained (of course, the same should hold true for our human colleagues). Inevitably, someone in the office will not be an animal lover, and their desire to not be “bothered” by pets must be honored.
If you are interested in the role pets can play in the workplace, take a look at this video that is presented along with paper’s abstract. Better yet, show it to your boss.
Dr. Jennifer Coates