Workplace benefits have changed over the years, and each generation has a new set of ideas of what they should receive. Paid vacation and a bonus may have been one of the best benefits packages for your parents, while your thoughts may stand in sharp contrast. One of the most popular perks that are popping up in offices is allowing dogs and other pets. Although this may not seem like a benefit to some, it allows employees to bond with their pets, which improves productivity and morale while relieving stress. Only a few decades ago, dogs in the workplace would’ve been met with strange glances and laughter. Today, it’s changing the way that a new generation works.
Dogs in the workplace
Bringing a dog-friendly policy into the workplace doesn’t come without obstacles. Before you implement or draft a policy, you need the opinions of your workforce. Typically, the smaller your company, the easier it is to figure out if you can pass a dog-friendly policy without any problems. All you need to do is take it to a vote. For larger companies, this process is more involved, but a poll or vote may take the legwork out of the decision. If you need any evidence in favor of bringing dogs into the workplace, a Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) study found that workers felt less stressed on the job when dogs were free to roam about the office.
When you boil it all down, a dog-friendly workplace needs to become widely accepted by the employees. Even if only one person is allergic or opposed to dogs at work, it can pose a problematic situation. However, if your employees give you the green light, you’ll join the 20 percent of companies nationwide that enjoy a seemingly endless amount of benefits.
If your employees vote to have a dog-friendly office, there are some steps you can take to ensure the workplace is comfortable for everyone. Make sure to adhere to any federal, state, or local regulations regarding animals in the workplace, and make sure to designate a pet-free zone for employees that are allergic to pets or uncomfortable around them. In addition, you should write down a list of guidelines that dictate acceptable and non-acceptable pet behavior in the office. Finally, make your office pet-friendly by having water fountains, bowls, and treats readily available, and allow for time to take walks.
Cultivating employee relationships
Building work relationships between employees isn’t always as easy as it sounds, especially if those workers find that they have nothing in common. However, a pet-friendly office helps level the playing field. People who wouldn’t ordinarily bond can discuss their pets’ behavior, training, and share videos and photos. This can also lead to enhanced collaboration, conversation, and more communication between employees, even if they aren’t in the same department. By allowing pets in the workplace, you create an atmosphere that’s more conducive to teamwork and team building.
Another perk of allowing dogs in the office is that your employees’ stress levels will fall dramatically. According to the same study from VCU, employees who brought their dog into the office saw their cortisol levels—the hormone naturally produced by stress—decrease 11 percent, while those that didn’t have a canine buddy nearby saw their stress rise a whopping 70 percent.
The reason for such a change in stress levels isn’t fully understood, but there are many theories as to why dogs cut stress. One theory is that they actually help produce stress relieving hormones such as oxytocin, while also diminishing cortisol. In addition, dogs also provide a lighthearted escape after you’ve had a tough meeting, a rough presentation, or just a bad day in general. Dogs are never ones to scold you, and just a brief contact with a furry friend can put your mind and heart at ease.
Improved employee morale
There are numerous ways to improve morale in the workplace, yet few are as effective and inexpensive as allowing dogs at work. If you decide to adopt a dog-friendly policy, the most expensive part is buying dog dishes or installing dog doors at the office. This is far cheaper than the alternative of something like buying a television and gaming system, purchasing a Ping-Pong table, or setting a budget for a work party. However, it’s important to note that these are still great ideas, and when you couple them with dogs, it makes for the ultimate morale booster.
You can also improve employee morale by combining ideas. If you normally have an ugly Christmas sweater party, add dogs into the mix. This is a fun way for employees to dress up with their animals, and provide some friendly competition to see which dog is best-dressed. If you have food in the office frequently, such as competitions or cook-offs, you should also consider adding a dog-friendly element to the competition. Instead of just making chili or baked goods, invite employees to cook up some dog treats. Then, you can have a subjective vote on which one the dogs loved the best. No matter what you decide to do, adding a pet-friendly aspect invites more of your employees to get involved. The more involved, the better they feel at work.
Positive health aspects
Unless all of your employees are allergic to pet dander, having dogs in the workplace actually improves employee health. Because there are lower stress levels, this leads to reduced blood pressure and fewer heart problems. Plus, employees need to walk their dogs during breaks, which leads to more exercise. If dogs weren’t in the office, it would lead to a more sedentary workplace and more health risks.
While improved employee health leads to more production in the workplace because of improved energy and focus, it also has some monetary value for employers. Healthier employees take fewer paid sick days and require lower health insurance premiums, which translates into extra savings and a larger bottom line for companies.
Better work/life balance
Work/life balance has become one of the many modern facets of an office job. Instead of spending all your free time at work, companies now stress that you need a life outside of the office. With dogs at the office, it fosters a better work/life balance by allowing employees to bring a part of their personal life to their work life. This is even more important when there are employees with a puppy or an older dog that’s at the end of its life. By allowing these dogs in the office, they aren’t worried about what their dog is doing all day. This translates into more focus and improved productivity when compared to the alternative of leaving dogs at home.
Attract the best employees
If you’re looking for ways to attract the best employees from other companies or recent college graduates, the answer just may lie in a dog-friendly workplace. Many millennials are downright obsessive with their furry friend, and giving them a chance to bring them to work is an added benefit that many of these potential employees look for in addition to other, more standard perks such as paid vacation, health benefits, and retirement plans.
Reaching out to consumers
Studies show that 47 percent of households have a dog, and many of them have two dogs, resulting in a total pet dog population of 83.3 million. With such a large number of dog owners throughout the country, connecting with them on a personal level is important, and promoting a dog-friendly workplace piques their interest in the companies. Imagine that you have several competitors, but your dog-friendly office is widely known throughout your consumer base. Because consumers can relate to dog ownership, this just might be a way to improve brand recognizance, brand loyalty, and even your bottom line.
Setting the tone
Not only are dogs lovable creatures, but they also bring a certain calm and comedic aspect to the office. What makes this even more interesting is that these two aspects translate into a workplace environment that’s more comfortable, relaxed, and open than ever. If you’ve ever felt like your employees were shy or closed off regarding talks or suggestions, a dog can help make it easier for employees to communicate, or at least encourage them to do so.
Having a dog-friendly office has numerous benefits, but it isn’t for every company. Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the idea before making a unilateral decision. Your employees and clients will thank you.