Taking dogs to work 'reduces employee stress'

beagle dog Even employees without dogs wanted to take colleagues' pets for a walk

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Bringing pet dogs to work can reduce stress and make the job more satisfying for other employees, a study suggests.

US researchers found those with access to dogs were less stressed as the day went on than those who had none.

The preliminary study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management looked at 75 staff.

The researchers suggested access to dogs boosted morale and reduced stress levels, whether people had access to their own pets or other people's.

The study was carried out by a team of researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University who looked at a manufacturing company where people are allowed to bring their pets to work.

They compared those who brought in their own pets, with those who had dogs - but left them at home - and staff who did not own pets.

Over a week, the researchers compared employees' stress levels, job satisfaction and feelings about support from and commitment to the company.

Pooch power

Stress hormone levels were measured using saliva samples during the day.

In the morning, there was no difference between the three groups.

But during the course of the work day, stress levels appeared to decline for employees with their dogs present and increased for non-pet owners and dog owners who did not bring their dogs to work.

Start Quote

The employees as a whole had higher job satisfaction than industry norms.”

End Quote Prof Randolph Barker Virginia Commonwealth University

The researchers also noted that stress rose significantly during the day when owners left their dogs at home compared to days they brought them to work.

Randolph Barker, lead study author and professor of management at the VCU School of Business, said dogs can make a positive difference in the workplace.

"The differences in perceived stress between days the dog was present and absent were significant. The employees as a whole had higher job satisfaction than industry norms."

Prof Barker said having dogs around the workplace may contribute to employee performance and satisfaction.

And he reported positive comments from employees such as "pets in the workplace can be a great bonus for employee morale", "having dogs here is great stress relief" and "dogs are positive; dogs increase co-worker cooperation."

Past research has shown that stress can contribute to employee absenteeism and burnout. It can also result in significant loss of productivity.

Louise Lee, spokesperson at pet charity Blue Cross said they have always promoted the benefits of dogs in the workplace.

"We encourage our employees to bring in their well-behaved dogs where practical and we have seen similar results to the survey - a more enjoyable working environment, staff more likely to take regular breaks and a reduction in stress through stroking and petting dogs during the working day.

"The dogs themselves are also much happier as they are not being left at home for long periods of time."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Being a dog owner and an animal lover I think this is a great idea. I have quite a stressful job and go home each lunchtime to see my dogs, let them out etc and then go back to work revitalised having had a cuddle and a walk etc releasing all the stresses and strains of the morning so ready to face the afternoon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    We must be the best nation on this earth at finding the negatives in any story. Here we go again sucking our teeth and inventing problems to pull a good idea to bits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    33. Room for disgreement ''Has anyone considered the potential for the dogs themselves becoming stressed by an unfamiliar, noisy, crowded environment?''

    Good question!

    If I remember correctly blind MP David Blunket used to take his guide dog into the House of Commons - hardly work - but a very ''noisy, crowded environment'' at times!

    I would imagine that his dog got very stressed at times!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Should add, we have an office dog policy - all dog owners must have third party liability insurance, all dogs must be on leads or not allowed to wander freely, and if any staff member has a problem in working in a room with a dog, that room will be dog-free and dogs cannot be brought in. Also dogs can only use the back stairs and must stay out of kitchens, meeting rooms and reception. Works well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    I work from home, and my dogs have a day bed in my office, which they meander onto when it suits them. No commute + dogs, I must be almost stress free!

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    I dislike dogs and their frequently deranged owners who seem to be incapable of understanding that not everyone finds their smelly, noisy, potentially dangerous mutt irresistibly adorable. Apart from properly trained assistance dogs, dogs do not belong in the workplace unless it's a farm

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    @ 42. Spudlet01

    Yes, but you do work from home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    For those of us who don't like dogs it wouldn't reduce stress at all, rather it would significantly increase it. For truly cynophobic people it would be a significant increase in stress and distraction.

    We may be "a nation of animal lovers", but not necessarily everyone and all animals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    My dog is under my desk right now. He is no trouble, he gets a walk during my lunchbreak and a fuss from anyone who wants to give one - anyone who doesn't wouldn't even necessarily know he was there as he lies on his bed and sleeps until invited out. I've been bringing him to work for nearly three years with no problems during that time. Wouldn't be without him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    This research on pet dogs reducing stress levels is not exactly new: The use of pet cats has been used for older patients in care / NHS settings for some years & is proven to reduce stress levels of patients.

    Likewise viewing aquariums with colourful exotic fish swimming is also shown to reduce stress & anxiety levels of anxious dental patients in the waiting area & in the dentist chair!

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    A dog isn't for work, just for Christmas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    I take my Irish Wolfhound to work and he behaves very well for the most part. He does unleash huge farts from time to time however which leaves everybody gassed, but very amused.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Awesome idea! As a nation of animal lovers, what better way to keep people in the office happy? So long as the dog is happy and the work doesn't decline. It may even improve, if people are less stressed and bogged down in their work, they generally have a more get-up-and-go attitude. I will forward this story to my boss now..

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I understand the experiment was only done for a week. It remains to be seen if the novelty simply wore off over a longer period. Stress at work is not created by an absence of pets & those factors would most likely reassert themselves.

    But it's not a bad idea & animals are a good influence in a school. Our school keeps hens for the farming course, they are (oddly) quite a civilising influence!

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Great - so then not only would productivity fall due to fag breaks, it would fall even further due to doggy-poo breaks. An idea that should be filed where the sun don't shine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    If I would bring 2 of my English bullies to work that would cause an absolute havoc!!! Would love to see lazy office bores jumping on their desks, scared out of their wits, though!!:D
    Might as well bring them around one day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    The only thing worse than dogs are their insufferable owners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Has anyone considered the potential for the dogs themselves becoming stressed by an unfamiliar, noisy, crowded environment?

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    I'd love it! Whenever women bring their babies into the office (which I hate!), I always say that I wish people would bring in dogs instead - which I realise is unusual as most other women run to coo over them, just me & the blokes remain seated!

    I always look out for jobs working for Guide Dogs for the blind as on all person specs is: 'must be comfortable with dogs in the office' - brilliant!

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    We should introduce dogs into schools - children love animals and often difficult pupils can behave better with a dog in the class. Of course, the elf and safety brigade will say no way but it can be managed properly. A school I once worked at had a thriving zoo, but because of jealousy of other teachers it was closed down - the children were devastated.


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