Bringing Fido to Work: Productivity Booster?


Think your office has gone to the dogs? Well, for a growing number of people, it has.

Dogs are increasingly becoming part of the team at offices: You'll find them napping under desks, playing ball in the hallway and even sitting alongside executives during tense meetings. Tech giant Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has long been known for its laid back work environment that allowed dogs, but companies across the country and industries are allowing four-legged pets in the office, including Build-A-Bear Workshop, Autodesk, Ben & Jerry's, Free People and Amazon.

Studies have shown dogs in the workplace can be good for business resulting in higher productivity, increased employee collaboration and lower stress levels.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Workplace Management, the presence of dogs in the workplace significantly lowered the stress of the owners throughout the day. Researchers looked at three groups: pet owners who brought their dogs to work, pet owners who were asked not to bring their dogs to work, and group three were non-pet owners. The groups who didn't bring their dogs to work reported increased stress throughout the day while workers with their pets reported lower stress than other groups.

One of the key benefits of dogs is their ability to break down the barriers that keep humans from connecting. After all, how many times have you chatted easily with a stranger while petting their dog? When dogs are around, many people feel relaxed and happy. In fact, many companies with reputations for being great places to work are dog-friendly.

Dogs in the office tends to bring more worker breaks for things like outside walks for bathroom breaks or visiting a co-worker; this benefit is equally valuable for people who work from home and might not get away from their desk enough. Studies show small, quick breaks like this stimulate creative thinking and have added health benefits.  Recent studies have shown that long-term sitting is bad for your health and can even shorten lifespans. A study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that pet owners often have lower blood pressure and heart rates than non-pet owners. When tests were done in the presence of dogs, the results were even lower.

The Downside

Not everyone likes dogs and having them in the office can make some workers uncomfortable. Whether they are allergic, afraid or just simply not fans these fury companions can make some workers feel additional stress.

There's also a risk for bites, barking, bathroom accidents and other distractions when dogs are allowed in the office. .

Creating a Pet Policy

It's employers' jobs to keep their employees happy so before instituting  a pet policy, experts suggest getting input and suggestions from the team. Boss should communicate the intention openly with everyone on the team and ask if anyone is allergic or opposed to the idea. If so, find a way to manage these risks so everyone is comfortable, or not allow dogs into the organization at all.

If an employer decides to let dogs in the office, it's important to set up ground rules. Experts offer the following tips:

1, Mandate Vaccinations. Employees must show proof their dog is up to date on all their shots and vaccinations.

2. Set a Trial Period. Many companies put new dogs "on probation" for several weeks. Dogs must be well-behaved, non-aggressive, and accident-free during their probationary period. The owners also need to be put on probation: Waste must be picked up immediately outside and they need to make sure their dog behaves and is under control at all times.

Test out the policy on national Take Your Dog to Work Day. The date changes each year, but it allows office to see what the environment will be like.

3. Establish Ground Rules. It's important to consider the implications of allowing dogs in the office. Set rule from the start and stick to them-do dogs need to be on a leash, is there a size limit, what happens if a dog has an accident? It's important to address every need and problem and apply solutions fairly and consistently.

Heather Levin is a dog lover residing in Michigan and writes about green living, pets, and money management on Money Crashers Personal Finance.