bring your dog to work
Bringing the Dog to Work is Good for Mental Health

Some people are fortunate enough to work for companies that encourage employees to bring their dogs to the office. Dog-friendly companies are becoming so common that Pet Sitters International enacted “Take Your Dog to Work Day” in June, which concludes an entire, “Take Your Pet to Work Week.” And it’s not just startups that are joining the movement. Major corporations like Amazon, Salesforce, Google, and Ticketmaster, are among a growing list of companies that welcome dogs in the office. For new dog owners, some companies even grant employees, “pawternity” leave, to allow time for bonding and training.

But bringing a dog to the office isn’t just a way to make other people smile, or to play with when work gets too daunting. Nearly 40% of pet owners say they would sacrifice vacation time and take a pay cut if it meant they could bring their pets to work, according to a survey from Wellness Natural Pet Food and ORC International. Of those survey respondents, 22% believed their productivity would increase if they brought their pet to work.

New Study Finds Dogs in the Workplace Can Make Employees Happier

According to a 2012 research report published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, employees that brought their dogs to work exhibited lower levels of stress throughout the workday, had a more positive view of their employer, and experienced higher levels of job satisfaction. When discussing the study’s results, the principal investigator, Randolph T. Barker, stated, “Pet presence may serve as a low-cost, wellness intervention readily available to many organizations and may enhance organizational satisfaction and perceptions of support.”

The study, conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University, examined 550 employees of a service-manufacturing-retail company, where approximately 20 to 30 dogs were present each day. Over the duration of the workday, employee’s self-reported stress declined for those with their dogs present and increased for non-pet owners and employees that did not bring their dogs to work. Additionally, employee’s stress increased significantly during the workday when they left their dogs at home, compared to days when they brought their dogs to work.

Researchers also noted the impact of dog-related communication in the workplace, and its ties to performance and mental wellbeing. Employees that were not pet owners, or who did not bring their dog to work, often asked co-workers if they could take their dogs out during the day. These interactions created positive rapport between co-workers and allowed employees to take a break, recharge, and get some exercise before returning to the office.

How Do Dogs and Emotional Support Animals Improve Mental Health?

 People who love animals know that there are few greater joys that spending time with a pet. They become a member of your family and offer a special bond that is difficult to replicate. Pets can help their owners boost vitality, stay connected, and find meaning in their daily lives. While pets do require time and attention, having a pet in your life can dramatically improve mental wellbeing, health, and happiness.

Today, research is proving that pets and emotional support animals can be used to improve a wide range of conditions, from depression and anxiety, to cancer, Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune diseases. When humans interact with dogs (or other animals), the brain releases oxytocin, which triggers feelings of heightened happiness, and decreased stress. When patients interact with emotional support animals, their mood lifts, their demeanor changes, and they start to think more optimistically, which is very therapeutic for the brain and nervous system.

Convincing Your Boss to Allow Your Dog at Work

 The study from Wellness Natural Pet Food and ORC International found that 44% of the 1,100 pet owners polled said they would seriously consider a career move in order to work at a pet-friendly workplace. That tells us that pet owners already understand the benefits of bringing their dog to work, and want employers to recognize the same.

If you’re company currently has a policy that doesn’t allow pets at work, there are a few things you can do to try and change the rules. Start by talking to your co-workers, to make sure they would be comfortable with your dog in the office. Remember that some people are allergic to dogs, and others might be nervous about having dogs in their space. When speaking with your supervisor, focus on the benefits for the company. Remind them of the data that proves the correlation between dogs and office productivity, and discuss creating a set of rules. Lastly, offer to do a week-long test run, to see how your dog behaves in the office, how co-workers adapt, and to determine if the arrangement would work over the long term.

 How Non-Pet Owners Can Benefit from Emotional Support Animals

Because emotional support animals are so widely accepted today, people who aren’t pet owners can still enjoy the mental health benefits of interacting with animals. One of the best ways to do this is by volunteering at your local animal shelter. Shelters are often looking for people to walk dogs, play with animals, and work on basic training skills. Another option is to become a dog walker through a service like Rover, which allows people to walk dogs on-demand as often as their schedule allows, or dog sit for those who have space to house a dog for a short period of time. If you want to spend more time around animals, don’t forget to tell your friends and family that you’re available to care for their pets when they’re on vacation, or need extra hands.

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Article By: Chris Howard
Director of Community Outreach & Education Chris Howard has been working in the mental health field since 2010 after seeing the long-term effects of mental illness within his own family. He is a graduate of UCLA where he received his B.A. in Psychology. Having worked closely with those struggling with addiction, Chris considers the concept of community to be an essential part of treatment and advocates for wellness approaches that integrate both leading conventional therapies, as well as holistic practices like yoga and meditation.