When estimates state that we’ll spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime (according to industrial-organisational psychologist and data scientist Andrew Naber), it makes sense that enhancing our workplace experience is at the top of organisational priority lists. In good news for pet owners who are heading into the workplace each day, data is emerging that points to the surprising benefits of allowing pets in the office, ranging from productivity increases to boosts in morale.
If you’re a dog or cat lover (or maybe a lover of a pet species that’s more exotic!), it’s not hard to imagine the joy you may feel at walking into the office and being greeted by a wagging tail that’s always happy to see you. Pet-friendly offices continue to rise in prominence, often accommodating the many pets that were also acquired during work-from-home pandemic impacts. For employees who are now either working full-time from the office again, part-time, or in a hybrid dynamic, creating a pet-friendly space can be one key way to increase their job satisfaction and boost employee retention.
What are the psychological impacts of pets in the workplace?
Many humans experience significant psychological benefits due to being close to their pets. A study by the University of York and the University of Lincoln found that pets help to reduce stress because they’re often tuned into humans, providing key emotional support. Another study by Washington State University found that when people spent time petting either dogs or cats, their stress levels were reduced, with hands-on petting resulting in momentary stress relief and a reduction of cortisol levels. Pets can also help to reduce anxiety, boost self-confidence, and provide companionship, offering all kinds of ongoing psychological benefits to their owners.
While there’s little question about the mental health benefits of pet ownership, how do they translate into a workplace setting? In a recent study of 31 companies that allowed pets to join their owners in the workplace, researchers found that most employees who took part believed that workplace pets directly contributed to reducing their stress levels, positively influencing their health, job satisfaction, and boosting productivity and employee morale.
A pet-friendly workplace can also help to benefit that elusive work-life balance (which is always up for debate!) – when professionals are able to bring their pets into their office environments, this can help to reduce the pressure on employees to be at home to care for them, allowing for more flexibility in working hours. The need to take pets out for a short walk or to pause for a quick hug can also help to create natural mental breaks throughout the workday, allowing humans to take in the fresh air alongside their pooch.
Pets and office morale
One non-obvious benefit of opening up your workplace to four-legged visitors is in the way they can boost office morale. Pets can often serve as an icebreaker, helping colleagues to connect, build relationships, and bond over a shared enjoyment. When pets are a source of laughter or enjoyment, they can also help to spread positivity throughout the break room, as well as contribute to improved communication between peers.
The presence of pets in the office can also be a drawcard for new employees who may be on the hunt for a more innovative, open work environment. By nature, a pet-friendly office speaks to an organisation’s ability to adapt, work flexibly, and accommodate the mental and physical needs of its employees. For employees who prioritise these elements in their work environments, a friendly dog at reception is one quick way to signify the kind of environment they’re likely to experience on a day-to-day basis.
What’s the best approach to building a pet-friendly office?
Of course, creating a pet-friendly workspace requires some planning. Navigating the needs of employees and pets alike is crucial in setting up an environment that’s going to work in the long-term. If you’re making the move to establish a pet-friendly workspace, make sure to:
- Maintain high standards of hygiene. Pets who are visiting the office should be clean and freshly groomed, ensuring they’re not carrying any fleas or ticks that could lead to some unpleasant side effects.
- Check all vaccinations are up to date. In order to maintain an environment that’s safe for all of its human and animal inhabitants, pets who visit the workplace should be up to date on their vaccinations and any required medications.
- Take it slow. Sure, it might sound like a great idea for all 50 employees to bring in their dogs – but what if they don’t all get along? Pets require time and space to get used to new environments, which is particularly important when other pets are in the area. By introducing new animals one by one and rotating visiting days, you can ensure everyone has the space they need to ease into a pet-friendly arrangement.
- Keep communication open. While colleagues may love the chance to get a desk visit from their peer’s pet, it’s important that the needs of the pet are clearly communicated. If one dog is on a special diet, sneaking them treats in the breakroom could lead to all kinds of trouble. Encourage each employee to communicate any specifics about their pet’s needs to the team, while also ensuring that their pets meet a respectful and appropriate standard of behaviour in the workplace.
As the environment in which our work takes place continues to evolve, acknowledging the varied needs of our employees and peers is one way we can build progressive, considerate workplaces that are designed for the whole human. One simple way to bring joy into your team’s work environment is to invite their pets along with them – all shapes and sizes welcome! By strategically building towards a pet-friendly workplace, you can embrace the psychological benefits of pets in the workplace, boosting morale, increasing productivity, and creating more ease in the balance of personal and professional responsibilities.
At RealClicks, we’re always advocating for honest service and communication, both with our clients and our team. If having your dog close by will help you achieve those goals, we’re all for it! Contact us today to learn more about the real value and strategic direction that transforms our clients’ marketing outcomes through our work.