Here at INDEX, we’re lucky enough to work alongside everyone’s favourite colleague, Yarra – the five-year-old Labrador Retriever who brightens up our days.
Lovingly known as ‘Yaz’ or ‘Patch’ (following her recent surgery), she is omnipresent in our office. Yarra will often curl up under your feet at your desk, follow you to the kitchen on a misguided quest for food, bolt through the hallways when you throw her favourite toy, play tug of war with you or even accompany you to a meeting. Wherever she goes, she is met by smiling faces. It’s as if she promotes a certain sense of warmth and love in our office.
Yarra is here because she is a Seeing Eye Dog – an invaluable companion for a colleague of ours who is vision-impaired. However, more and more organisations are allowing employees to bring their furry friends into the office.
A study completed in 2012 by researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Human-Animal Interaction found that the benefits of having dogs in the office weren’t just limited to the dogs’ guardians – pet-less colleagues were found to directly benefit from the presence of canines for a multitude of reasons.
Dogs help reduce stress levels and increase productivity
From both a business and wellness perspective, dogs increase workplace morale. The above study found that job satisfaction levels of both owners and non-owners increased significantly versus the norm group, indicative of a more engaged and happy workforce.
Another study indicates that increased exposure to canines could increase the release levels of oxytocin (known as the love hormone). Amongst other things, oxytocin has been proven to improve social skills, reduce stress levels and promote generosity – all important components of building positive working relationships.
Dogs make your office an attractive place to work
Be honest, who doesn’t like the idea of working with dogs? Dogs can help you both attract and retain staff – once an employee is able to regularly take their companion into work, it’ll take a lot for them to give that up.
Being dog-friendly is also an enticing proposition for potential staff, and not just those with dogs – it promotes a friendly working environment that can give a business a competitive edge when attracting talent or clients.
Dogs encourage social interaction
Perhaps most importantly, introducing dogs into the working environment can help break down rigid communication walls amongst colleagues. A dog can give you and the co-worker you swear you’ve never seen before a reason to chat.
VCU’s aforementioned study refers to dogs as a ‘social lubricant’: “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.”
Dogs help people get moving
If you’ve read my previous blogs, you’ll recall my unwavering advocacy for regularly getting up from your desk and going for a walk. Unsurprisingly, the presence of dogs also encourages this.
Dogs, like us, need to get outside for breaks throughout the working day. As we’ve seen in our office, people will literally fall over themselves for the chance to take the dog out for a quick walk.
Perhaps your office is not yet ready to allow pets on the regular, and that’s OK – don’t expect your CEO to suddenly implement a policy that allows dogs in the office all day, every day. Policies need to be created and ratified for this to occur, building managers need to approve the practice, there needs to be a general consensus of approval from staff – it’s a process.
What you can do, however, is suggest that your workplace partakes in International Take Your Dog to Work Day on Friday 22 June. This event could serve as the perfect ‘trial run’ for your office and it is also a terrific means of promoting pet adoption. If you are thinking about participating, have a read of the RSPCA’s tips on what you should consider before taking your dog to the office.