Pets in the workplace benefit employees, with Human Resources professionals stating that it helps improve retention rates – according to research carried out by Purina New Zealand. International studies have shown that millennials – who, alongside Generation Z will soon be making up the majority of the workforce – prefer puppy friendly offices, and indeed, companies like Google, Ben & Jerry’s, and Etsy have been dog friendly for a number of years. The trend is certainly growing strong abroad. In the UK and the US, for instance, around 8% of companies admit dogs, according to a 2015 Society for Human Resource Management survey. While no precise statistics are available for New Zealand, it seems logical to assume that the trend will be equally strong here. Many recent studies have shown that dogs have an important role to play in companies, with benefits for employers and employees alike.
If you are a HR professional and your management is considering transforming your workspace into a pup-friendly one, a review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is a good place to start. The study showed three important benefits of permitting dogs in offices. First of all, the presence of pets at work significantly lowers levels of stress hormone, cortisol. Secondly, dogs at work foster social interaction. Employees enjoy approaching pets in the office and starting up a conversation with a co-worker they may otherwise not have had the chance to connect with. A third benefit imparted by dogs is physical activity. Workers often ask to take someone else’s (or their own) pooch for a break, thus taking advantage of being active in the open air. With news that sedentarism has come to pose a big threat for New Zealanders’ health, any excuse to get off one’s desk and engage in exercise is to be embraced.
Hurdles To Be Overcome
Dogs are still animals, and as much as they can soothe the nerves and even improve work performance, they need to fulfill various conditions in order to truly benefit an office. Firstly, dogs need to have a calm, non-aggressive character, so as to avoid fighting between puppies or aggression/pushiness/over-excitability towards humans. Some dogs can be easily trained at home prior to being brought into the office; others require more intense (and sometimes, professional) training and socialisation classes. Dog owners need to be willing to put in the time, effort, and expense required to make sure their dog is a ‘good canine citizen’ before bringing them into work.
Can You Trust Your Co-Workers To Do The Right Thing?
For things to run smoothly in dog-friendly offices, rules also need to be established with respect to health concerns. Dogs should be well groomed, treated against ticks and fleas, and vaccinated so as to protect the health of humans and canines in the office. Moreover, employees need to be committed to taking dogs for frequent potty breaks, to avoid the little accidents that can wrest from an office’s professional ambience. For dog-friendly offices to work, there should also be a ‘dog creche’ area in the office itself, where dogs can be safely kept and supervised if bosses are having an important meeting with clients, and desire a dog-free moment.
Recent studies have proven that offices can benefit significantly from dogs, with younger generations such as millennials seeing pet-friendliness as a sign of flexibility and innovation. Dogs calm stress, bring people together and ‘force’ workers to be active – something that is so important in this age of sedentarism. The cons of a dog-friendly workplace are not insurmountable. By setting up rules, ensuring all dogs have the right character, and having an ‘emergency room’ for times in which a dog-fearing client visits, a workplace can benefit exponentially from the pitter patter of furry paws nearby.
written by Jane Sandwood