Within the next decade, millennials will become the largest demographic in the global workforce. Businesses are preparing for the Generation Y invasion by introducing fresh approaches to work that meet the needs of this new wave of workers.
The impact of millennials on the modern workplace is being felt in a number of ways. Flexible working schedules and new technologies are being introduced to meet the demands of the digitally literate generation, while eco-friendly initiatives are also being introduced to reflect their ideals. Now, forward-thinking companies are looking to attract younger employees by embracing a cuddly yet controversial addition – the office dog.
Some of the world’s most successful companies welcome dogs into their premises, for instance Google, Amazon and Ben & Jerry’s all have pet-friendly policies. Some companies have even created job titles for their pets such as Milford the Chief Executive Dog at the Build-a-Bear workshop and Euka the Vice President of Canine Communications at P&G Petcare.
However, there is more to having dogs at work than employee amusement. Studies have shown that they can bring a number of business-related benefits, such as improved workplace morale, reduced levels of stress and lower levels of absenteeism.
Dogs in the office can relieve stress levels by up to 11%
A team of researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University found that bringing dogs into work reduces stress and makes the job more satisfying for other employees.
The study looked at 75 staff members at a manufacturing company and compared those who brought in their own pets, those who had dogs but left them at home and staff who did not own pets. Over a week, the researchers measured job satisfaction and compared employee stress hormone levels using saliva samples.
Little difference was found between the groups during the morning, but during the course of the work day, the stress levels of employees with their dogs present declined by 11%. For non-pet owners and dog owners who did not bring them to work, stress levels increased by 70%.
A dog-friendly office can improve employee cardiovascular health
According to numerous studies into cardiovascular health, owning a dog can significantly lower your risk of developing heart disease. Remarkably, something as simple as petting a dog has been proven to reduce blood pressure. There is also evidence that suggests owning a dog is associated with lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
A dog-friendly office also encourage you to be more active – pet owners have an excuse to get out of the workplace and fit in a walk during their lunch break. The sedentary office lifestyle has been linked to several health issues such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. An office dog provides a constant reminder to get up and take a brief pause from your screen.
Having well exercised employees is essential to office productivity. When you exercise, blood flow to the brain increases which sharpens your alertness and improves your ability to tackle big projects. Furthermore, regular exercise can improve immunity to illness. Employee absenteeism costs UK businesses an estimated £36 billion each year and so encouraging staff to exercise could help to cut the number of sick days they take.
Pet friendly policies are not without their problems
Despite the many health benefits of bringing dogs into work, office pets are not always a sensible addition. There are more than 5.4 million people with asthma in the UK and 40% of sufferers are also sensitised to dog allergen. Some of these allergies can cause rashes, temporary breathlessness, panic attacks and in extreme cases severe respiratory disorders.
In addition to allergic reactions, some employees may be genuinely scared of animals. For some people a dog in their workplace is not a calming presence, more a stressful element that could significantly reduce their productivity.
Furthermore, it’s important to remember that even the most gentle and obedient of dogs could change in temperament if spooked. If a dog feels threatened in an unforeseen situation, it could attack and injure somebody in the workplace which will inevitably lead to a personal injury claim and lawsuit. While more and more companies are allowing pets into work, organisations need to seriously consider the issues that four-legged guests bring along with them.