Workplaces are changing. More and more organizations are becoming aware of how employee satisfaction and comfort are tied to commitment and organization loyalty. This is coinciding with the growing trend in allowing companion animals in hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities. Companies and organizations are starting to take notice; they are allowing staff to bring companion animals to work. And there are some positive anecdotes arising from this.
There are very few actual studies looking at the effects of dogs in the workplace. This study was an attempt to “investigate employees’ stress and organizational perceptions within an organization setting that permits pets in the workplace.” The study took place at a service-manufacturing-retail company located in Greensboro, NC. A total of 76 human subjects completed the study. There was a mix of people accompanied by their dog and without a dog. And there was also a control group consisting of people who did not have companion animals of their own.
For those in the dog group, about half reported that the dogs were “important to their productivity.” And the other half reported a neutral response. Most people who did not bring their dogs to work and non-companion guardians also reported a neutral response. But 20% in both of those groups reported that dogs were either helpful or harmful to productivity. Interestingly, those that could bring their dogs to work reported higher levels of job satisfaction. They also detailed lower self-reported stress levels as well, though their actual salivary cortisol measures didn’t reveal anything of statistical significance.
The researchers also found that self-reported stress levels on the days the “dog present” group left their dogs at home was the same as the group who did not bring their dogs to work at all. Such results may “reflect an increase in concern about pets at home as the length of time away increases, missing pets more as the day progresses, or lessening of a possible stress buffering effect of pets as the length of time away from the pet increases.”
For animal advocates, this study and the growing associated trends of #takeyourdogtoworkday, for example—acknowledges the important role that companion animals play in our lives. There are obviously some caveats to this type of initiative. For example, there are some workplaces that are just inappropriate for dogs. And we need to consider their welfare as well. But, with good guidance and common sense, bringing dogs to work seems to hold potential as a positive practice for both dogs and us.