By Melanie CurtinWriter, activist@melaniebcurtin
Whether you’re looking to convince management to allow furry friends at work or a manager considering changing office policy to allow pets, you’ll be glad to know there are plenty of compelling reasons to let Fido come to work. Here are the top three:
1. It lowers stress and boosts morale
A study out of Virginia Commonwealth University found that workers who brought pets to the office experienced lowered stress levels, higher job satisfaction, and saw their employer in a more positive light.
The study broke employees down into three groups: dog owners who brought their dogs to work, employees who owned dogs but didn’t bring them in, and non-pet-owning employees.
All groups gave saliva samples at the beginning of each workday to get baseline levels of the stress hormone cortisol. They were tested again at the end of the day to see how levels had changed.
Lead author on the study, Randolph Barker (yes, that’s his real name), found marked differences in cortisol levels between the groups. The most relaxed group was dog owners with their furry friends by their side; the most stressed group was dog owners who had to leave their pooches at home.
According to Barker, advantages weren’t limited to lowering work-related stress. Participants also reported higher productivity, increased morale, and improved cooperation with coworkers. Notably, dogs prompted more interaction between colleagues. “Dogs were a communication energizer … people who didn’t typically talk to one another, were now more engaged,” said Barker.
2. It improves collaboration
Researchers out of Central Michigan University have established that having dogs around at work prompts people to work together more effectively. In one experiment, two different groups were asked to create a 15- second ad for a made-up product — one group with dogs around, the other human-only.
The results? The team with dogs underfoot ranked their human teammates significantly higher on measures of trust, intimacy, and overall team cohesion. This may be in part because, as research out of Japan has shown, merely looking at dog gazing lovingly at you can prompt the release of oxytocin, the bonding hormone.
Similarly, another study found that in individuals involved in the common prisoner’s dilemma experiment, having a dog around made participants 30% less likely to double-cross teammates.
The science is clear: there’s something about seeing our fellow humans pet, laugh, play with, and be loved by animals that makes people more likable, trustworthy, and familiar to us.
3. It’s good for individual and company health
Part of the benefit of having a pet is that it encourages walk-taking. Every few hours, you have to get out and move around, which is a much-needed but often overlooked activity in modern life.
Recent research also shows that going for a walk can boost creative thinking by up to 60%. This is particularly important in office environments where you’re trying to encourage creative thinking. Pet owners taking frequent walks (along with those who join them) could very well lead to unexpected breakthroughs.
Plus, in addition to feeling less stress and more connection at the office, people with with pets are more likely to stay late if they’re not worried about getting home to feed or walk the dog. You’ll get more out of employees, and they’ll feel better about giving.
A company in which employees trust one another, collaborate freely, and communicate effectively is a company that’s going to succeed. It’s not just about warm fuzzies, either. Numerous studies show that trust, collaboration, and communication amongst employees are correlated with strong revenue numbers.
Or, in the words of neuroeconomics professor Paul Zak, “It is not just ‘nice’ or ‘fun’ to have dogs at work, it is an effective way to improve productivity and profits.”