A Better Workplace With Dogs
It’s the end of a long day, and you come home to the skitter of paws and a bounding welcome. Aside from being intuitively obvious to anyone who’s received such a greeting, the deep value of the human-animal bond is backed up by research that demonstrates potential benefits to our health and wellbeing. Dogs not only support us directly, but also act as social catalysts, breaking the ice and fostering our friendships with other humans. Building on existing research into dog-human relationships, this study surveyed 749 workers to explore whether taking your dog to the office can bring some of these benefits to the workplace.
Survey questions looked at office friendships, desire to leave the job, social media use, engagement with work, and quality of life at work. Respondents were also asked about the health of their dogs, their relationship with their dog, and the demographics of themselves and their dog. Roughly a third of survey respondents marked that their workplace permitted dogs. Of those, almost 90% brought in their dog often or sometimes.
People working at smaller offices and at nonprofits were more likely to bring in their dogs, while people working in education were less likely. The survey also revealed that employees who had worked longer for an organization were more likely to bring their dog into work. The researchers observe that this could be because employees are more committed to a workplace that’s dog friendly, but that it could also be that employers are more willing to allow a long-term employee to bring in their dog.
So what was the impact of bringing dogs to the workplace? All work-related outcomes were better among people who bring their dogs to work (barring social media use, which was slightly increased in break times). The results showed that people who bring in dogs are more dedicated, absorbed, engaged, and vigorous at work; they had closer friendships in their workplace and were less likely to express the intention to leave; and their general wellbeing was significantly higher. They were also less anxious in their attachment to their dog.
Demographic data about the dogs allowed the researchers to explore how different types of dogs affect workplace outcomes. Dogs who have received training, who are small (less than 5 kg), and who are mixed may be better suited to the workplace. However, the study noted that further research is needed to build a fuller picture of the relationship between dog demographics and workplace outcomes.
Assuming that the dogs enjoy the new adventure, these results suggest that bringing dogs into work could be a win-win. For employers, allowing dogs can increase productivity and decrease turnover by creating a positive environment. For workers, bringing dogs into work means not having to stress about whether they’re doing okay home alone, plus having their companionship throughout the working day.
For animal advocates, it’s great to have evidence like this that encourages human spaces to be more inclusive of non-human animals. But as we learn more about the positives for humans of dogs in the workplace, it’s important that we don’t overlook the impact on the dogs themselves – an aspect of the question that needs more in-depth research.