With a growing body of research suggesting that a dog-friendly office could have a real effect on employee well-being and productivity, it’s no wonder that more companies are welcoming furry friends into the workplace.
First, some background. In perhaps the most famous study on dogs in the workplace, researchers at the US-based Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Human-Animal Interaction found that having dogs around the office produced a wide array of benefits for both pet owners and their pet-less co-workers.
The study, which was published in a 2012 edition of International Journal of Workplace Health Management, examined Replacements, a manufacturing services company in Greensboro in North Carolina, where several dozen dogs are present on a typical day. The study found that employees who brought their dogs to work experienced significantly lower stress levels during the workday and that a sizeable portion of pet-free co-workers viewed the dogs’ presence as having a positive effect on their productivity as well.
These results were consistent across a wide range of departments, from traditional white-collar fields such as sales and marketing to blue-collar sectors such as manufacturing.
The VCU study also supports the idea that dogs could help inspire buzz-wordy concepts such as collision and cooperation. “When there were dogs at the office, we found that people who normally wouldn’t talk to each other did and that all of a sudden there was a connection and a feeling that they were part of a team,” says Randolph Barker, a professor of management at the VCU School of Business and one of the study’s authors. “The dog becomes a social lubricant.”
Further studies support the notion that pets are natural stress relievers.
“Animals reduce activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which is our primary stress response system,” says Evan MacLean, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona who studies the relationship between humans and dogs. “Stress can have a wide range of negative impacts on cognition, mood, and our interpersonal interactions. Keeping this system in check is critical for keeping us in the best shape to be creative, interactive, and productive.”
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