As Bring Your Pet To Work Day marks its 26th anniversary in the UK this week, it seems more companies are looking at the benefits of pets in the workplace.
Experts say it is a simple balance between stress inducing and stress busting situations and workplace stress causes negativity which can create a tense working environment for employees.
But research shows that pets at work tend to improve office morale, decrease absenteeism levels and promote a healthy work-life balance which is good for the employer and the employees.
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Research from Rover.com, the world’s largest network of five-star pet sitters and dog walkers, shows that 65% of UK dog owners think working alongside their dog improves their mental health and wellness.
Their study looked as various factors when determining the UK’s top dog-friendly companies including whether dogs were allowed into the office, paid time off for pet bereavement or adoption, a pet ‘stipend’ to help with costs such as insurance, and in-office amenities such as treats, gates or dog beds.
And this week one of the UK’s most prestigious law firms, Slaughter and May, has made the break and invited its people to bring their dogs to their London office on Friday, June 24. If the trial goes well, the firm is understood to be planning an expansion of the pilot to the last Friday of each month over the summer.
Deborah Finkler, the new managing partner of the firm that was founded in 1889, told The Telegraph: “The benefits of all animals and especially dogs to mental health, morale and alleviating stress are widely recognized and I also hope that the trial makes for a fun and sociable day.
“I have long been an advocate of having our dogs in the office and so am delighted that we are trialling Slaughter and May’s first ever Bring Your Dog To Work Day. The benefits of all animals and especially dogs to mental health, morale and alleviating stress are widely recognised, and I also hope that the trial makes for a fun and sociable day.”
The good news:
Dogs reduce stress
Introducing a pet policy that allows your staff to bring their animals with them to work can help to decrease stress in the workplace. This applies to all employees working in the office, not just the one who brought their dog to work.
Deakin University’s research into the effect of nature and living things in the workspace showed that ‘contact with nature may provide an effective population-wide strategy in the prevention of mental ill health’.
And petting a dog for just 10 minutes can help reduce stress, according to a study carried out by Washington State University. When we cuddle or stroke a dog, our bodies release oxytocin which is a stress-reducing hormone.
And researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University studied three groups of employees – one who brought their dogs to work with them, another who left their dogs at home and one more who didn’t own a dog. They found that the group who brought their dogs to work stayed considerably less stressed than those who left their dogs at home.
Dogs increase teamwork and morale
Group behavior in a setting where a dog is present is more ‘cooperative, comfortable, friendly, active, enthusiastic and attentive’, found researchers at Central Michigan University.
Dogs have a fantastic way of lightening the mood in any situation and making people smile, which can therefore increase morale in the workplace. Moreover, a significant percentage of people like dogs, and dogs in the workplace can act as an icebreaker, encouraging more interaction among employees and enhancing teamwork.
Dogs encourage regular breaks
Bringing a dog to work will mean you’ll need to take regular breaks to take them out for a walk or give them water and food. While this might seem counterproductive or even distracting, taking regular breaks is necessary for people to perform optimally.
Going out for a walk can help people clear their minds while getting some physical activity. Physical activity is great in terms of staying active, but it also increases brain power.
Dogs increase productivity
With the regular breaks, comes an increased level of productivity. Studies show that spending too much time on one project can actually decrease productivity. Therefore, when people take short breaks, they come back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the project again.
This study found that ‘pets remind people to pause and step back from whatever they are involved in. Short walks, a little playtime, and temporary distractions allow mental breaks so as not to overwork and become stressed.’
Dogs increase employee retention and decrease absences
The more policies there are at a place of work that aim to make the work environment a more welcoming and relaxed place, the less likely you are to have people who want to leave.
Allowing employees to bring their pets to work will make them feel valued, which will in turn translate into loyalty and better talent retention numbers.
A study carried out on employee retention and job satisfaction found that ‘the first benefit of employee satisfaction is that individuals hardly think of leaving their current jobs.’
The less stressed a person is in their job role, the less likely they are to be absent too, and given then dogs decrease stress – this can be a major benefit to employers.
The not-so-good news
- Not everyone likes dogs, and not everyone who likes dogs actually wants to be around them all the time.
- Dog behavior amongst strangers and the dog of co-workers can take some handling.
- What one person sees as cute behaviour, may be viewed as unacceptable to others.
- Companies need robust policies in place if you want to allow dogs into the workspace.
- All dogs need to be well trained and comfortable away from their normal surroundings.
- They might need to pass some type of check to ensure they are suited to the workplace.
- Dog free areas may help for those people who don’t like dogs or who suffer from allergies.
The research by Rover.com listed the top 17 UK dog friendly companies and in the top spot was consumer research platform Attest. The London-based company, which was rated 4.38 out of five overall, scored in all four of Rover’s applicable categories, offering dog-friendly office spaces, time off for pet needs and a pet stipend, plus other amenities.
A spokesperson from Rover said: “Attest’s team members are supported with up to five paid days off when they adopt a new pet and up to eight weeks of extra flexible time to ensure they have adequate time with their new family member. Attest also celebrates and shares important information on each office dog using their internal ‘Dogtabase.’”
However, service company TaskRabbit, whose UK office is also in London, and Leeds-based pet care business Itch, were close behind Attest. Each scoring 4.36 out of five overall, the two companies ranked in second and third place.
Unsurprisingly, both businesses allowed dogs into the office, offer at-work amenities for animals and time off for pets, with Itch also providing a pet ‘stipend’.
Notably, though, TaskRabbit does offer pet parent employees full coverage for their animal’s insurance, as well as three extra days of paid leave when they adopt a new furry family member.
Workers at Itch get paid time off and a £50 pet gift when they adopt a new pet, as well as additional benefits like pet charity volunteer days off and birthday gifts for their pet. Itch employees are also offered paid time off for pet bereavement.
Ranking fourth on the list with a score of 4.29, pet community Tailwise has similar paid time off policies. Team members at Tailwise can take up to five extra days when adopting a new pet, while bereavement time off is at the discretion of the employee.
In fifth place, meanwhile, was Procore Technologies in London. Rated 4.24 overall, the construction software management company scored highly thanks to its range of dog benefits.
Rover’s report explained: “Aside from the furry-friends Slack channel, pet parents enjoy partial coverage for pet insurance, quarterly stipends for pet care, dog-friendly happy hour pawties, and Procore-branded dog tags.”
Lower down the list but with similarly unique offerings were CharlieHR, at number 12, which offers dog play rooms and a rooftop doggy park, as well as office space rental agency Kontor, at number 8, who provide in-office doggy day care.
Interestingly, 82% of the businesses included in Rover’s list claimed that being dog-friendly has positively impacted the hiring of new recruits in a competitive jobs market.
Companies such as Inverse-Square, a custom application development company, have been open to pets in the workplace due to their affect on work-life balance. Both employers and employees state it helps them spend long work hours happily, and the pets remind them to take necessary breaks.
Spending too much time too close to a project, problem, or other work can inhibit productivity and cause unnecessary stress.
But pets remind people to pause and step back from whatever they are involved in and short walks, a little playtime, and temporary distractions allow mental breaks
Other companies, like Etsy, Amazon and Airbnb allow pets in the workplace to keep spirits high and add some light relief.
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