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Imagine your office. Now imagine it with the joyous noise and hustle and bustle of dogs and cats (and maybe even some birds or hamsters). Picture a sweet Labrador coming up to you for a head scratch just when you start to stress out about a deadline.
Think about how much easier your life would be if you could bring your own pooch or cat into the office a few days a week. It’s every pet-owner and animal-lover’s dream, right? When you add pets into the office equation, the entire atmosphere changes from a place of high stress to a calming and enjoyable experience. Even more importantly, a pet-friendly work environment boosts employees’ productivity, creativity, and overall job satisfaction.
Employees who have to leave pets at home all day while they go to work are constantly stressed about the length of time they need to be gone. I know this because I just became a dog-mom to a golden retriever puppy. Leaving him at home in his kennel breaks my heart. Even though I know he’ll be fine, I’m wracked with guilt. Having him at work with me would make my life so much more convenient, and make him much happier.
I’m not alone in this guilt. My co-workers with pets also feel terrible for leaving them home alone all day. They all rush to be out of the office door by 5 p.m. in hopes of beating the traffic and arriving home earlier. Many of them go home at lunch to take Fido on a walk and shower him with attention for an hour.
On the special occasions when someone brings in a pet before taking it to the vet or groomer, we all go gaga over it. The office turns into the front row of a Beyonce concert, each of us jumping around and pushing others out of the way in order to earn its attention. Any day involving an animal is a good day, even if it’s been the most anxiety-riddled work day from hell.
The Health Benefits are Major
The most obvious benefit is that employees don’t have to stress out over leaving a pet inside alone for extended amounts of time. When you have to walk away from those sweet faces from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., the guilt takes over. Instead of devoting 100% of your attention to the work tasks of the day, you can only devote about 80%. The other 20% is solely worrying if your pet is thirsty, hungry, in need of a bathroom break, bored, lonely, or tearing up something. It’s not an intentional preoccupation; it’s simply something pet owners can’t help.
In addition to preoccupation, pet owners are more likely to head out the door as soon as possible in order to let the dog out or feed the cat. They’ll walk away from incomplete tasks because their pets need them more. With pets in office, employees can relax. There’s no reason to worry about an animal when you can take him or her to the office with you. There’s no need to rush home before finishing work if your pet is sitting right at your feet — which means employees can complete more work on a daily basis.
Schedules becomes easier for employees to manage, but even more important is the impact a pet-friendly office has on stress levels. A study by Virginia Commonwealth University found that people who brought their pets to work with them had lower stress levels as the day went on than those who didn’t bring their pets to work or didn’t have pets at all. The simple act of bringing a dog into the office impacted the employees in a major way.
Lower stress is better for your body and for your job performance. It’s hard to be unhappy at a job when you have your furry companion curled up at your feet.
Office Pets Improve Work Performance
Stress relief isn’t all that pets are good for; the presence of animals in the office is also phenomenal for work performance. You have to take your dog out for a walk when you bring it to the office with you. A few walks throughout the day is good for your physical and mental health, obviously, but it can boost your creativity as well.
Part of this creativity comes from a decrease in stress levels, but also from the act of physically leaving the office for 10 minutes two or three times during the day. Getting outside, moving, breathing fresh air — it’s all fuel for creative thoughts.
Nothing quite sums up this connection between walking and thinking quite like the act of actually taking a walk, but an article in The New Yorker certainly describes it well. “Why Walking Helps Us Think” discusses the many famous writers who touted the benefits of walking when it came to true thinking and self-reflection. By taking a quick walk out of the office with your dog, you can experience the same “kind of mental state that studies have linked to innovative ideas and strokes of insight.”
Honestly, how many employees are known to take a walk in the afternoon when they’re feeling overworked and uninspired? I can think of only one person in my office who does. By having your dog in the office, you have no choice but to head outside for a quick jaunt around. This time allows you to think freely; you can puzzle over a work-related issue or give some time to personal thoughts. Either way, you’ll end up back at your desk with a renewed sense of creativity and clearer thoughts (which equals a much more productive day).
More Animals = More Job Satisfaction
It’s practically impossible to be unhappy at a job that allows pets to come in. Unless you’re the type of person who can’t handle animals, you’re going to have so much to be thankful for each work day. This is even more true for those who bring in their pets. Employees are less likely to leave a pet-friendly office, no matter what the work or pay, when keeping that job is in the best interest of the pet.
Pets are the most effective ice breaker. They put complete strangers (or co-workers who don’t usually converse with each other at the office) at ease around each other and give them something to begin talking about. Why is this a particularly useful benefit? Because it creates a more collaborative working environment. Co-workers enjoy working together to solve a problem or finish a project when there’s a furry critter underfoot. Pets relax everyone, which helps to reduce the work conflicts that are so common in group work.
Pet-Friendly Offices are the Future
At first consideration, it seems allowing animals would be more problematic for a company. There are guidelines to establish and legal issues to consider. Aside from those preliminary requirements though, a pet-friendly office benefits the company’s bottom line just as much as it benefits the employees’ daily lives.
When a company is comprised of happy employees who don’t feel unbearable stress all day long and enjoy working with their co-workers, the company performs better as a whole. Employees work longer, are more efficient with their work, and feel more creatively stimulated when they can bring in their pets. This means the company has better results at the end of the day — which ultimately means pets are good for making money.
Happier pets = happier employees, happier execs, and happier investors. With a laundry list of benefits this long, it’s a wonder most offices aren’t pet-friendly already. This is shifting though; just like companies are shifting to flex schedules and increasing the number of remote workers, they’re also becoming more open to the idea of pet-friendly workspaces. As the cloth of company cultures change, you can be sure there will be more pups and cats (and even some rabbits or hamsters) running down the world’s fluorescent-lit hallways.
Don’t wait for your company to jump on the bandwagon in five or 10 years though. Pitch the idea to HR as soon as you can so your company can join the ranks of the happiest companies in the world. Your pets will thank you.