Dogs in the workplace – should you or shouldn’t you?
By 2020, millennials will constitute 40% of the global workforce. This percentage could rise to more than three quarters by 2025 as more and more baby boomers move towards retirement. Because of this, businesses are introducing fresh approaches to working that meet the needs of the new generation of workers.
Flexible work schedules, the integration of new technologies and eco-friendly initiatives that reflect their ideals are just a few of the ways millennials are impacting the modern workplace. Now, forward-thinking companies are looking to attract younger employees by embracing a cuddly yet controversial addition – the office dog.
As well as surpassing baby boomers in employment, millennials will also become the largest pet-owning generation by 2020. Employers are starting to realise that by allowing staff to bring their pets into work, morale, productivity and levels of absenteeism could all significantly improve. However, poorly thought out pet-friendly policies can lead to serious health and legal issues, so is welcoming dogs into the office really worth the risk?
Office dogs provide stress relief and increase engagement
There is a reason why Google, Amazon, Ben & Jerry’s and a whole range of other internationally successful enterprises welcome dogs into their premises – and there is more to it than their sheer adorableness.
Research has found having canine companions in the office can significantly increase workplace morale. One study conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University found that bringing dogs into work could reduce stress levels by up to 11%.
The cathartic influence of dogs can be attributed to how animal interaction affects our hormones. Playing with or stroking an animal increases the production of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decreases the level of cortisol, a hormone closely associated with stress.
Workplace disengagement increases when employees experience high levels of stress, which in turn leads to less productive employees. Efficient employees are essential to the growth of any business, so many companies are becoming dog-friendly in order to reap the rewards of having a stress-free workforce.
Dogs prevent employees from succumbing to office sedentarism
Many adults spend more than seven hours a day sitting at a desk without taking regular breaks. The sedentary office lifestyle has been linked to a number of health issues including obesity, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. A dog-friendly office gives employees an incentive to exercise, for instance by taking the dog out for a walk during their lunch break.
According to various studies, dogs can be particularly beneficial to cardiovascular health. Remarkably, evidence suggests that the simple act of stroking a dog can reduce blood pressure, while ownership is also associated with lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Regular physical activity also improves work performance. When exercising, your body releases endorphins that boost mood, energy levels and self-esteem. Blood flow to the brain is also increased, sharpening awareness and increasing ability to tackle projects. Furthermore, exercise improves immunity to illness. Sick leave costs UK businesses £36 billion each year, so having well exercised employees is essential to the success of a company.
Recruitment can be heavily-influenced by dog-friendly policies
In the corporate realm of business culture, office dogs can help recruiters to secure prime candidates. Furry friends add personality to a workplace that can be marketed as part of the company’s culture. When considering multiple offers, little perks like a pet friendly office can be the deciding factor for some candidates.
However, it can work both ways. Dogs are not universally loved by all. Many people have had bad experiences with animals and could become anxious and less focussed around dogs. For potential hires that are not part of the pooch-loving population, office dogs could be the factor that sees them take their job search elsewhere.
Allergies can result in serious health issues
The World Health Organisation estimates that around 235 million people suffer from asthma across the globe. There are more than 5.4 million sufferers in the UK alone, 40% of whom are also sensitised to dog allergen.
Animal allergies can cause skin complaints, panic attacks, breathlessness and in extreme cases severe respiratory disorders. Employees that suffer minor allergic reactions are likely to lose productivity for at least the remainder of the day, while more severe reactions can last multiple days and will probably result in the employee taking time off work.
Cleanliness and concentration levels need to be considered
Even the most well-behaved of dogs can be conducive to concentration. People have a natural desire to pay attention to puppy-dog eyes, meaning pets in the office can become more of a distraction than a benefit. With social media and conversation with colleagues, there are already enough distractions in the office without the addition of an adorable four-legged friend.
It’s important to also consider how dogs could affect the cleanliness of the office – particularly when clients visit for meetings and consultations. Nobody wants to deal with clothes covered in dog hairs or the unpleasant smell that a pet could leave behind.
If pet-policies are carefully considered, dogs in the workplace can be a great addition that encourages productivity and employee health. However, if poorly planned, office pets could leave you with a workplace unpleasant to both employees and clients.