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How canine colleagues can lift up your workplace

Many of the UK’s top companies are now pet friendly with one in five Brits (20%) now able to bring their dog into work, and with three quarters (74%) of us now in favour of dog-friendly workspaces, new research reveals that this could be the most simple and cost effective way to improve work culture.

Four fifths of Brits (81%) believe pet-friendly workplace are happier workplaces, with dog-friendly found to be the work perk that Brits had said had the biggest positive impact on their overall wellbeing, with one fifth of people (20%) ranking this highest above other common perks such as free breakfasts, complimentary drinks or bar and free childcare at the office. 17% also said they’d even be willing to take a pay freeze or pay cut in order to be able to bring their dog to work.

85% of Brits believe that bringing a pet to work, or working in a pet-friendly environment, would have a positive impact on their overall wellbeing and one of the earliest adopters of a pet friendly policy, pet care brand Purina has seen a remarkable change in employee engagement, camaraderie amongst employees and even a decrease in sick days since they implemented the policies.

Purina commissioned the study as part of their Pets at Work (PAW) scheme, encouraging more workplaces to become pet friendly ahead of World Mental Health Day on Thursday 10th October because of the benefits pets and work can have on mental health and wellbeing.

The findings support previous research from the University of Lincoln that found Brits who regularly take their dogs to work are 22% more satisfied with overall working conditions than other employees2 so it’s no surprise that this perk is now being seen as the answer to tackling increased stress and anxiety.

In fact, 91% of Brits saying they find having a dog around them a calming influence and 94% believing our pets presence can improve our own confidence. 31% who said they’d suffered with a mental health issue, said that one of the top things that helped them was spending time with their pet.

The study revealed the reasons Brits think that having dog-friendly workplaces is a good idea, with the top 10 reasons cited as:

  • A good conversation starter (54%)
  • Great for meeting new people (50%)
  • Improve overall happiness and wellbeing (46%)
  • More likely to take a walk at lunch (46%)
  • Save money on pet care (31%)
  • Improve office morale (31%)
  • Pets are more stimulated at work, than being home alone (31%)
  • Owners don’t need to rush off at the end of the day (23%)
  • Facilitate new friendships (22%)
  • Dog owners are less likely to take sick days, if they can bring their pet to work (21%)

Furthermore, 84% of Brits said having dogs on the workplace could help boots office morale, with 75% believing a ‘canine colleague’ could help diffuse stressful or difficult situations with other employees.

Calum Macrae, regional director Purina UK & Ireland, said: “Purina has had dogs coming into our office for the last 15 years.  Our four-legged colleagues have really helped to make the office a much more fun and engaging place to be and has had a noticeable impact on our employee’s wellbeing. The world, in general, can be increasingly more stressful so finding new and different ways to improve how people feel at work is critical.  We have seen first-hand how something as simple as having a dog in the office can positively affect people’s stress and anxiety levels, which in turn benefits their overall health and wellbeing.”

Leading psychologist Jo Hemmings agrees that allowing dogs into the office is a good idea and has revealed her top reasons why:

Stroking a dog has been proven to reduce stress, whether the dog belongs to you or not

Just the act of stroking and petting a dog has a calming effect on most people. It relaxes us, giving us a little burst of the bonding hormone, oxytocin. Just feeling that soft fur also lowers our heart rate and blood pressure.

Pets are a compelling source of social support for us

Pets, especially dogs, are very loyal and non-judgemental. They show you unconditional love, even if you’re having a bad day or feeling down about yourself. Dogs always respond well to a few kind words or a stroke, with enthusiasm and happiness, which can be very infectious. We feel rewarded by our actions, raising dopamine – the reward hormone –reducing cortisol, the stress hormone.

Dogs encourage outgoing and sociable behaviour

Dogs can be an ice breaker – most people can’t resist petting or talking to dogs and in that British reserved way, it’s much easier talking to the dog before the owner! This positive behaviour also works in the professional environment, encouraging your colleagues to talk more to you and to each other, both in groups and individually.

Dogs lower stress related symptoms, like heart rate, high blood pressure, cholesterol and loneliness

Being around dogs in the workplace has multiple health benefits. In terms of productivity, studies have shown that employees in pet-friendly offices make fewer visits to their GP and take fewer sick days.

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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