As research expands our knowledge on the health benefits of pets, society is becoming more and more pet friendly. Doctors are prescribing pets for mental illness and wellness, teachers are incorporating pets in the classroom, and therapy animals are bringing comfort and joy to sick patients, young and old. Workplaces are also increasingly becoming “pet-friendly” by instituting policies that are sensitive to pet ownership.
Findings of a recent study that focused on these pet-friendly workplace policies found benefits of adoption measures can include improved employee productivity and retention.
- The scope of pet-friendly policies and practices ranges from simple to more complex measures.
- Adopting these measures can result in benefits that include enhanced attraction and recruitment, improved employee retention, enhanced employee health, increased employee productivity, and positive bottom-line results.
- But there are also concerns regarding health and safety, property damage, distractions, and religious preferences.
Research shows the positive role pets can play in the workplace, from increasing productivity to enhancing collaboration and improving workplace morale.
- Pets in the workplace were most likely to be perceived to reduce stress, facilitate social interaction, to serve as an organizational symbol, and to serve as a self-expressive function.
- Pets provide stress-relieving support
- Pets make the work environment more comfortable, provide a pleasant diversion from work, and provide companionship
- Customers are more relaxed and interactive, as pets provide entertainment and diversion
A 2012 study exploring the effects of the presence of dogs at work on stress and perceptions of job satisfaction and organizational support found that employees with dogs at work experienced a decline in stress, while those without their dog present or those who did not own a pet experienced an increase in stress levels.
- Combined groups scored significantly higher on multiple job satisfaction subscales than the reference norm group for these scales.
- 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.
Another recent study found that the presence of a friendly companion dog had positive impacts on people in groups working on a problem-solving task.
- In study 1, groups worked on an interactive problem-solving task; participants in the dog-present group displayed more verbal cohesion, physical intimacy, and cooperation.
- Study 2 was identical except that participants worked on a decision-making task requiring less interaction; participants in the dog-present condition displayed more verbal cohesion and physical intimacy and gave higher ratings of trustworthiness to fellow group members.
- In study 3, we examined behavioral indicators of positive emotions in dog-present and dog-absent groups. Behavior in dog-present groups was rated as more cooperative, comfortable, friendly, active, enthusiastic, and attentive.
A recent study conducted by Nationwide, in partnership with the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), reveals that 90 percent of employees in pet friendly workplaces feel highly connected to their company’s mission; fully engaged with their work; and willing to recommend their employer to others. In contrast, less than 65 percent of employees in non-pet friendly workplaces made the same claims.
Additionally, more than three times as many employees at pet friendly workplaces report a positive working relationship with their boss and co-workers, significantly more than those in non-pet friendly environments. Moreover, these employees are more likely to stay with a company long term. The findings held true even among non-pet owners in both pet friendly and non-pet friendly workplaces.
Below are key findings from the Nationwide/HABRI pet friendly workplace effectiveness study:
A pet friendly workplace is defined in the study as one that allows pets in the workplace (regularly or occasionally) and/or offers a pet friendly employee benefit, such as pet health insurance.
Employee Respondents: 2,002 U.S. full-time employees who spend a majority of their time working in an office environment with businesses that have 100+ employees.
• 91 percent of employees who work for a pet friendly company feel engaged with their work versus 65 percent who work in non-pet friendly workplaces.
• 83 percent of employees who work for a pet friendly company feel their work is rewarding and exciting versus 46 percent who work in non-pet friendly workplaces.
• 88 percent of employees who work for a pet friendly company would recommend their place of employment to others versus 51 percent who work in non-pet friendly workplaces.
• 88 percent of employees who work for a pet friendly company plan to stay with the company for the next 12 months versus 73 percent who work in non-pet friendly workplaces.
• 72 percent of employees who work for a pet friendly company would decline a job offer with another company at similar pay versus 44 percent who work in non-pet friendly workplaces.
• 91 percent of employees who work for a pet friendly company feel the company supports their physical health and wellness versus 59 percent who work in non-pet friendly workplaces.
• 91 percent of employees who work for a pet friendly company feel the company supports their mental well-being versus 53 percent who work in non-pet friendly workplaces.
• 52 percent of employees who work for a pet friendly company report a positive working relationship with their supervisor versus 14 percent who work in non-pet friendly workplaces.
• 53 percent of employees who work for a pet friendly company report a positive working relationship with their co-workers versus 19 percent who work in non-pet friendly workplaces.
• 85 percent of employees who work for a pet friendly company reported they rarely miss a day of work for well-being or recuperation versus 77 percent who work in non-pet friendly workplaces.
Knowledge of the Human-Animal Bond Amplifies Benefits of Pet Friendly Workplaces
Closer Relationships Bosses and Co-workers and Veterinarians
Results of the survey suggest that pet owners who are knowledgeable of the human-animal bond form closer bonds at work. In other words, pet owners who know that there is science that shows their pets are good for their health and wellness tend to benefit even more from a pet-friendly work environment.
- Pet owners with knowledge of the human-animal bond were more likely to report closer relationships with both their boss/supervisor (27 percent) and co-workers (34 percent), when compared to pet owners who were not knowledgeable about the human-animal bond (17 percent and 22 percent respectively).
- Additionally, pet owners with knowledge of the human-animal bond were twice as likely to identify a close attachment to their veterinarian (30 percent) compared to pet owners with no knowledge of the human-animal bond (14 percent).
Stronger Performance on Key Outcomes
Among employees with workplaces that allow pets, knowledge of the human-animal bond amplified the benefits of a pet friendly workplace environment.
- 83 percent of employees with knowledge of the human-animal bond found their work rewarding and exciting, compared to 61 percent of employees with no knowledge of the human-animal bond.
- 64 percent of employees with knowledge of the human-animal bond would recommend their job/employer to others, compared to 57 percent of employees with no knowledge of the human-animal bond.
- 56 percent of employees with knowledge of the human-animal bond would likely decline a job offer at similar pay, compared to 48 percent of employees with no knowledge of the human-animal bond.
- Among pet owners, 67 percent with knowledge of the human-animal bond would be more likely to stay at a company that is pet-friendly, compared to 42 percent of those without knowledge of the human-animal bond.
Encouraging Pet Ownership
Combined with pet-inclusivity, knowledge of the human-animal bond can increase pet acquisition.
- 42 percent of pet owners with knowledge of the human-animal bond reported they would be more likely to get an additional pet if their workplace was pet friendly, compared to 25 percent of pet owners with no knowledge of the human-animal bond.
- 49 percent of pet owners with knowledge of the human-animal bond reported they would be more likely to get an additional pet if their employer offered pet health insurance, compared to 29 percent of pet owners with no knowledge of the human-animal bond.
Greater Engagement with Pets
Pet owners with knowledge of the human-animal bond are more engaged with their pets and believe their pets have a more positive impact on their lives.
- According to the survey, 97 percent of pet owners with knowledge of the human-animal bond reported their pet has had a positive impact on their life, compared to 93 percent of pet owners without knowledge of the human-animal bond.
Educating pet owners and non-pet owners alike on the science behind the human-animal bond maximizes the benefits of a pet-inclusive workplace.
Pet Friendly Workplaces Have Healthier Employees
Results of the Nationwide/HABRI survey reinforce previous research on the health benefits of pets. The survey shows that pet ownership is associated with improved physical and mental health.
Employees with pets are exercising more often than those without, contributing to their overall physical health.
- On average, pet owners surveyed reported exercising 3.5 days per week, compared to non-pet owners, who reported exercising 2.8 days per week, on average.
Workplaces with pets present or those with pet supportive policies have employees who feel healthier overall, suggesting that benefits of these policies extend beyond the workplace to impact employees’ holistic self.
- 98 percent of employees in a pet-friendly workplace reported good mental health in a self-evaluation, compared to 81 percent of employees in a non-pet-friendly workplace.
- 97 percent of employees in a pet-friendly workplace reported good physical health in a self-evaluation, compared to 75 percent of employees in a non-pet-friendly workplace.
- 85 percent of pet owners agree that their pet brings them joy, while 82 percent say their pet brings them comfort.
- 73 percent of pet owners say that their pet enhances their mental health.
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Barker, Randolph T. “On the edge or not? Opportunities for interdisciplinary scholars in business communication to focus on the individual and organizational benefits of companion animals in the workplace.” The Journal of Business Communication (1973) 42.3 (2005): 299-315.