Companies looking to cut levels of workplace stress might have a simple solution: Let employees bring their dogs to work.
Dogs in the workplace reduce the stress levels of their owners and brighten the days of people who came in to contact with the pets in important ways, according to a preliminary study conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University. Compared with employees who did not bring their dogs to work and employees without pets, people who brought their dogs to work were found to have less stress, more job satisfaction and more organizational commitment.
"Dogs in the workplace can make a positive difference," principal investigator Randolph T. Barker, a professor of management in the VCU school of business, said in a release. "The differences in perceived stress between the days the dog was present and absent were significant. The employees as a whole had higher job satisfaction than industry norms."
The study, published in the March issue of the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, was conducted at Replacements Ltd., described as a service-manufacturing-retail company in Greensboro, N.C. The company has approximately 550 employees, and between 20 and 30 dogs are brought to work each day. Over the course of a week, employees gave a saliva sample each morning to measure their stress levels. They also filled out surveys regarding their stress levels throughout the day.
The saliva samples did not show any difference in the levels of stress hormones. But the surveys showed that people who brought their dogs to work felt less stress than people who did not bring their pooch to the office or did not own a pet at all.
Researchers also noticed that having dogs in the office triggered conversations among employees, such as one person asking to take a co-worker's dog out for a walk during break time.
"The effect of pets in reducing the impact of stress and enhancing communication found in other settings may extend to the workplace," Prof. Barker said.
"Pet presence may serve as a low-cost, wellness intervention readily available to many organizations and may enhance organizational satisfaction and perceptions of support. Of course, it is important to have policies in place to ensure only friendly, clean and well-behaved pets are present in the workplace," he added.
Cutting stress isn't all dogs can do at work. A survey conducted by the American Pet Products Manufacturing Association in 2006 found that huge numbers of Americans believed pets in the workplace can help foster a more creative environment, reduce smoking rates, reduce absenteeism and help co-workers get along better.
Do you think dogs should be allowed in the workplace?