Man’s best friend may also be his best friend in the workplace according to research that came out of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) last year. The preliminary study, published in the International Journal of Workplace Health and Management, revealed that dogs may decrease employee stress and improve job satisfaction.
The study involved workers at a retail business in North Carolina that employs around 450 and generally hosts 20-30 dogs each day. Over one work week, participants completed surveys and collected saliva samples during the day.
“Dogs in the workplace can make a positive difference. The differences in perceived stress between days the dog was present and absent were significant. The employees as a whole had higher job satisfaction than industry norms,” Randolph T. Barker, professor of management at VCU and the lead researcher, told the VCU news centre.
While there was no discernible difference between stress levels among employees in the morning, stress declined for employees with their dogs while increasing for those who didn’t have their dogs with them, or didn’t own dogs, throughout the day.
A New Zealand example of the practice of allowing dogs in the workplace is SCION, a crown research institute. “As I understand it, [the policy] was an idea from a few staff members that became a reality, largely because it aligned with our culture,” Keri-Anne Tane, GM HR – SCION, said.
SCION is located in Rotorua near the Redwood Forest and many of its employees already owned dogs. “Using their “exercise time” to also exercise their dogs was a natural consideration – and fortunately for us we have plenty of space here to allow for dog kennels,” Tane added. The policy at SCION does not allow dogs in buildings, unless they are seeing-eye dogs, and they must be either on leash or tied up while they are on the campus.
Apparently, SCION’s staff love the policy. “The dogs help motivate them to get some fresh air/exercise and as we all know – this helps overall wellness,” Tane said. She admits that there have been a few ‘grumbles’ about barking or an owner’s failure to clean up after his or her dog, but only a few. “These are very rare and even those who don’t have dogs just love seeing them around – it adds to the feeling of being part of a community,” she added.
“Pet presence may serve as a low-cost, wellness intervention readily available to many organisations and may enhance organisational satisfaction and perceptions of support. Of course, it is important to have policies in place to ensure only friendly, clean and well-behaved pets are present in the workplace,” Barker cautioned.