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.
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.