For a Productive Workplace Let Your Office Go to the Dogs

Research shows that allowing employees to bring pets to work might be your best, and cheapest, HR initiative.

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By Pratik Dholakiya

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Dogs have earned their designation as man's best friend. Besides being loving pets and fun playmates, dogs (actually, most pets) can actually give you a leg up on the corporate ladder. As long as you take them to work with you, that is.

Your company will be in great company

According to research by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, about 20 percent of all companies in the United States allow employees to bring their furry friends along to the workplace. Expectedly, the most common pet guests at workplaces are dogs at 76 percent, followed by cats at 15 percent. The remainder are small pets like hamsters or fish.

Related: Do Pets Make the Best Co-Workers?

Some of the most successful companies in the world welcome pets at their premises. While these include the usual suspects like Google, Amazon and Ben & Jerry's that are renowned for their work culture and employee friendly policies, there are some companies that take their pets very, very seriously indeed.

The Build-a-Bear Workshop has Milford the a Chief Executive Dog, while P&G Petcare has Euka the V.P. of Canine Communications. Tito's Handmade Vodka carries out pet rescues with employees acting as foster parents for rescued animals. Software company AnchorFree even has a domesticated wolf on its premises!

Some pets are not just office regulars, they are also stars in their own right. Andrew Neil, a presenter with the BBC UK, actually has his golden retriever Miss Molly as a regular fixture on his talk show. It is not uncommon for Miss Molly to curl up on a guest's lap while Neil conducts the interview.

Pets improve teamwork, job satisfaction and employee

In an experiment carried out by Central Michigan University researcher Christopher Honts and his team, test subjects were divided into groups that had a dog around them throughout a group task and those that did not. The groups which had a dog during their tasks showed significantly higher mutual trust, team bonding and intimacy than those that worked without one.

Related: What Dogs Can Teach Us About Working More Effectively

An oft-cited study by Virginia Commonwealth University tested the physiological and psychological effects of pets at the workplace on employees. Researchers found that employees who left their pets at home experienced much higher stress than those who brought their pets along to the workplace. Going by the numbers, employees who had their pets at their workplace showed an 11 percent drop in their stress levels by the end of the workday as compared to a 70 percent spike in stress levels of employees who left their pets at home.

Spiking the stress levels of the second group is the owners' worries by the end of a long work day about getting home on time to restless pets who need to be fed, petted or taken for a walk in time to prevent an "accident' at home.

Lower stress equals lower blood pressure and fewer heart problems. How is that related to workplace productivity? Employees who are healthier take fewer sick days, need lower health insurance premiums and contribute better at the workplace than those who fall sick often or suffer chronic health issues.

The study by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association quoted earlier, shows that employees at pet friendly workplaces are happier (who would not like to pet a cute pooch every now and then!), less stressed, more creative, more co-operative with each other and more productive at work.

Must haves for a pet-friendly workplace

Though I cannot fathom how it's possible, I am told there exists a sub-species of humans that cannot stand pets! There could very well be some of them lurking in your workplace, too. Since we are such nice people (and we do not want to get sued), it is important to lay down the ground rules and prepare your workplace in advance before you open your doors to your canine and feline pals.

  • Lay down clear ground rules for acceptable and unacceptable pet behavior at the workplace.
  • Offer the basic necessities of life to your four legged co-workers – self-cleaning litter boxes, pet water fountains, pet treats and flexibility for employees to take their pets out on a walk for limited periods of time.
  • A "pet-free' zone for employees who are allergic to pets or are uncomfortable around them.
  • Any other legal regulations as applicable in your state or country.

So, dither not on writing that email to Human Resources with your idea of a more pet-friendly workplace. Who knows, with the increase in productivity your suggestion brings, you might just get land that much hoped-for promotion after all!

Related: 20 Low-Cost Employee Perks

Pratik Dholakiya

Founder of Growfusely

Pratik Dholakiya is the founder of Growfusely, a content marketing agency specializing in content and data-driven SEO.

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