Dogs have been domesticated for at least 16,000 years and played key roles in the central work functions of society like hunting, farming and policing for centuries, so why aren’t they common in today’s office space?
Service dogs have been also been critical in assisting disabled individuals, and more recently dogs have taken on more specialized roles such as aiding in the rehabilitation of wounded veterans, easing tensions of nervous fliers at airports, and providing comfort to sick children.
However, as their role in providing specialized services has evolved, their role as everyday companions has somewhat devolved. In particular, their role in our everyday work lives. As we have become a more industrialized, society dogs seemed to have been edged out of the traditional work environment to the point where the presence of our long time companions at work is typically unwelcomed.
Keep in mind, it wasn’t until recently that apartment and condo buildings started becoming more “pet friendly.” Now, some designers take pets into consideration as they conceptualized new communities. Yet, when it comes to the workplace, we have a long way to go.
Research has long supported the notion that having a dog (or any pet, really) provides great benefits to our health and wellbeing. Some research has even suggested the presence of a pet can have similar effects to mediation and yoga. Considering the stress and strain of the modern globally connected world, this begs the question: Can pets in the office create a more productive and stress-free environment?
One study out of Virginia Commonwealth University found that employees who brought their dogs to work had lower stress and higher work satisfaction. Other research has found that having a dog nearby can lower a person’s blood pressure and heart rate.
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This should come as no surprise. From the world of psychology, we know that social support has always been one of the best buffers of stress. Pets add a layer of that buffering, but in a more simple way. They provide affection and our need for contact without all the gab. Essentially, allowing employees to bring their furry companions can potentially be a low cost wellness benefit.
Here are some more reasons to consider having a dog at work:
They Buffer Loneliness: Some positions can be really lonely, which means there is very little human interaction and social support. Dogs can provide that extra bit of company and feeling of comfort
They Offer Unconditional Love: Work relationships can be complex and very conditional. A dog’s affection is unconditional.
They Hold You Accountable: We all need breaks, but it’s easy to get lost in a busy workday and power through the days in exhaustion. A dog will regularly need to get outside for those bio breaks and they are always happy to remind you.
They Boost Morale: Research has shown stroking a dog can boost serotonin and dopamine, which can lead to more happy and productive workers.
Companies like Google (GOOG), Amazon (AMZON), Etsy, and Ben & Jerry’s have all adapted “dogs at work” policies to take advantage of these great benefits. We spend most of our waking hours working, so instead of confining our four-legged friends to an empty home all day, why not bring them along for the ride? Considering our long-standing history and the new found benefits demonstrated by science, it only seems natural.
Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and the new on-line course The YOU Plan for Career Change on Udemy. Dr. Woody is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership. Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook.