Hands up if you deal with workplace stress on a regular basis. You’re not alone — most of us do. In fact, nearly two-thirds of us consider our jobs the biggest stressors in our lives. With so many hits to our mental and physical health, let alone productivity levels, it’s no wonder companies are constantly on the search for ways to reduce stress. Luckily for us, some of those ways come in the form of pure, fur-covered joy.
Yes, that’s right. We’re talking about office pets, and it’s not just a millenial trend. There’s real research behind bringing your furry friends to work, and the benefits may be life-changing.
Let’s take a look at this surprisingly playful new strategy for managing stress in the workplace, highlights from the research about office pets, real-world success stories, and tips for how to better involve pets in your own workdays.
The Pros and Cons of Using Pets to Reduce Workplace Stress
Bolstered by research and real-world success stories, more companies are opening their doors to pets every year. Dog-friendly workplaces are up in the United States from five percent in 2013 to about eight percent in 2016. Science confirms that pets – especially dogs – bring tangible benefits to the office, but there are a few things to be careful about, too.
Let’s dig into the pros and cons of pets on the job, according to research.
Research-backed pros of pets in the workplace
Office pets reduce workplace stress
In the most rigorous study to date about office pets, employees who brought their dogs to work had lower stress levels in comparison to their dog-less coworkers whose stress levels were significantly higher through the day.
Office pets boost morale
Survey results about pets in the office are overwhelmingly positive. In one survey by Banfield Pet Hospital of over 1,000 employees and 200 HR managers, seven out of ten workers overall reported a positive opinion about the effects of pets on workplace dynamics.
The numbers are even more eye-popping for people who actually work in pet-friendly offices every day. According to the same survey,
- 88% of workers said pets improved morale
- 86% said pets reduced their workplace stress
- 85% reported better work-life balance
- 79% said pets helped improve their relationships with colleagues
- 75% found that they were able to work longer hours
What’s driving these results? The answer most likely involves a number of factors, but we suspect that one of them has to do with dogs’ abilities to foster social connections. And when people are grinding at work, they naturally take comfort in the knowledge that their furry friend isn’t there to judge their performance. Rather, the dog is happy to provide what researchers call nonjudgmental companionship that keeps their stress at bay.
It’s likely that many of the other benefits of pets described here carry over into the office, as well.
4 concerns about having pets in the workplace
Let’s take a moment to consider some very real concerns about office pets.
- 10–20 percent of people are allergic to dogs and cats, according to research
- 1 in 10 people is afraid of dogs, according to a Gallup poll
- The laws around bites or falls caused by pets in the office are not always clear and vary from state to state.
- Some people aren’t comfortable with office pets for cultural or religious reasons.
Real-world Success Stories about Office Pets
It’s clear that there are both legitimate benefits and concerns about having pets at work. So how has it turned out in the real world? Here are a few examples of companies who have embraced office pets.
- Amazon: In their Seattle headquarters, an estimated 2,000 dogs make the trek to work alongside their owners every day. Canine perks include free doggy treats, specialized drinking fountains, and dedicated play spaces in every building reports CNBC.
- Studio Ghibli in Japan: In a behind-the-scenes documentary about life in the celebrated Studio Ghibli — makers of animated children’s films — you can see how the office cat shares the space with artists.
So how do real people feel about having their pets in the office? In their own words:
Nicole, who recently invited an energetic young cat to her job in curriculum development, says:
She makes me happier. If I can’t think, I’ll play with her and then come back to my work with a clearer head. She’s a nice distraction, almost always in a good way.”
Sarah describes to CNBC how quickly she came around to the pet-friendly policy at Etsy:
It’s funny because I notoriously dislike dogs, but I love having them here. They make people smile almost universally, and I think they allow anxiety to diffuse when they suddenly skitter by. I have a tough time hating my email when Hoover comes over to say, ‘hey.'”
And Bob Vetere, the president of the American Pet Products Association, sums up the trend as he watches it sweep across the country:
Employers are starting to realize that having a millennial bring a pet to work, you wind up getting a more focused employee, you get someone more comfortable at the office and a person willing to work longer hours.”
How to bring pets into your work life
If you like what you’ve read, it might be time to take the first steps toward inviting (insert pet’s name here) into your office. Your manager might be understandably hesitant about the idea, so it’s wise to proactively take on as much of the responsibility as possible.
Here are a few specific ideas:
Survey your coworkers. The overall statistics are promising, but what really matters is how many people in your workplace are concerned, allergic, or uncomfortable with pets. Shoot out an email to find out.
Team up with other pet lovers. You’re probably not the only one dreaming about a pet-friendly policy. Seek out like-minded coworkers to share the burden of planning for the new policy and dealing with issues whenever they come up.
Do your homework before pitching to the boss. Come to his or her office armed with the research about how pets reduce workplace stress. Luckily, we did that for you. Then, go the extra step of looking up the rules in your specific state and office building.
Be flexible. Things happen. Sometimes Spot sees something outside the window that is so exciting he literally cannot contain himself. It’ll be your job to act quickly to deal with these issues one at a time when they come up.
To sum it all up…
We hope this guide helps bring less stress and more fur into your working life. If science continues to support this fun way to reduce workplace stress, you might be seeing a lot more animals in your office soon. And we think that’s pretty awesome.
Your turn: Do you have any more tips about how office pets can reduce workplace stress? Or a funny story about canine hijinks at work? Please share with us in the comments.
Want more pets? Check out our research-backed benefits of animals.
Author: Scott Trimble
Scott researched human motivation at The University of Texas at Austin. He spends most of his time traveling, reading, teaching, and writing.