Bring your Pets to Work! - Coping with Work-place Stress

by Sharon Hopkins

Not so long ago, offices all over the US celebrated Take Your Dog to Work Day. The celebration now in its fifteenth year was created to increase awareness about pet adoptions but it also raised an important point regarding the positive impact of bringing your pet to work. An unanticipated perk of bringing your pet to work along with you may be a decrease in your stress levels.

Recent studies concur that having your pet dog or cat around you in your work place can help you in many ways such as:

  1. Pets Help Reduce Stress: According to a survey of thirty one companies in the US, lower stress levels were noted when employees brought their pets to work. Another interesting fact was that cat owners reported greater relief from stress as compared to dog owners (apologies to all the dog owners out there).
  2. Pets Force you Take Breaks: Sitting at a desk the whole day or cramped in a cubicle can do terrible things to your body and mind. Having a pet at work forces you take regular breaks and walks around the office. In the long run, these short breaks also help in increased productivity so everyone is happy not just Fido.
  3. Pets Make the Work Place Happier: Who can stay glum or angry around a frisky puppy or a content cat? Pets can help improve your mood as well as force you to interact with others. One study showed that employees who worked around their pets reported more positive feelings for their colleagues and a better attitude towards their employers and work place.
All this therefore contributes towards lowering work place stress. A study conducted by the Virginia Commonwealth University showed that "pet presence may serve as a low-cost, wellness intervention readily available to many organizations and may enhance organizational satisfaction and perceptions of support." The study followed three groups of employees from a company in North Carolina. The first group came to work with their pet dogs, the second group had dogs at home but did not bring them to work and the third group had no dogs either at home or at work. A question and answer survey regarding stress levels was distributed to all groups and each participant’s saliva was tested for stress hormones on a daily basis as well. It was discovered that at the start of each day, the stress levels of all participants were the same. As the day progressed however, the group who brought their dog to work reported the lowest stress levels and recorded lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Researchers also found that employees were more positive about their employers and happier to come to work if they could bring their pets with them.

While this study was only a preliminary effort to deduce the positive effect of pets in the work place, the results showed that the researchers were on the right track. It was concluded that employees who took their pets to work did score higher on factors such as job satisfaction, work performance, good health and lower stress levels.

Before you head out to work with your pet in tow, remember to check with your employers first. Some offices may not have a pet friendly policy as yet or may prefer to be pet free due to allergies. If you are in the process of lobbying for a pet friendly office, it would not be amiss to inform your employers that some of the biggest companies in the country all encourage their employees to bring their pets to work - Google, Zynga, Amazon - the list continues to grow and your company could soon be added to the list. 
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