The Health Benefits of Animals in the Workplace
You may have seen cats hanging out in cafes or bookstores, or heard about organizations that hold an annual “Bring Your Pet to Work Day,” and those companies may be onto something. A 2012 study by Virginia Commonwealth University found that employees who spent time around dogs reported lower stress levels than those who had dogs waiting for them at home. And the benefits don’t stop there.
Benefits of Bringing Your Pet to Work
In addition to reduced stress, animals in the workplace improve employee morale and reduce absenteeism, heart disease, and diabetes. Spending time around animals can also decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and feelings of loneliness, according to the CDC.
Some employers who’ve opened their doors to pets report increased productivity and an improvement in how employees relate to each other. Having an animal around, especially a dog, also improves health by getting employees up and moving, which is known to benefit both the mind and body. And of course, pets are a certain source of comic relief.
Deb Havill, a clinical social worker and therapist, notes that being around dogs is natural and that “Reaching down and petting a dog is an easy way to ratchet things down when you need to.”
Pets as Employees?
Some pets offer skills that should earn them a paycheck, or at least a belly rub. Dogs, for example, make excellent security personnel or company mascots, and cats can do wonders controlling vermin and other pests. Some animals even have special skills that science cannot explain, such as Oscar, a cat with a sixth sense for predicting the death of hospice patients. To date, he’s predicted over 50 deaths and has even been written about in the New England Journal of Medicine.
There are Also Downsides
Of course, not all workplaces are suitable for pets, and it’s important to consider employee health and allergies, the possibility of disruptions, and dangers to animals that may not be obvious, such as poisonous plants or toxic chemicals. In addition, there’s always the issue of personal preference. Some employees or potential employees may not like pets, which could result in lost talent. All of this must be considered before deciding if allowing animal companions into your workplace is right for your organization.
To do it right, make sure you survey your current employees or co-workers, prepare your office for pet safety and hygiene, establish rules and etiquette, and proceed on a trial basis to make sure the benefits truly outweigh any risks.