How do you manage the stress levels and motivation of your employees? Maybe you buy your team a lavish lunch, or let them leave work 30 minutes early. But have you thought about the effect of bringing your beloved waggy-tailed dog into the office?
Allowing dogs into the workplace – an appropriate workplace, of course, with no hazards or staff with a phobia of dogs – is proven to reduce stress and boost morale. Here, three companies that champion such an approach, as well as an expert on canine wellbeing, offer five good reasons why this can work for the company, the staff, and the dog!
Dogs reduce sick days
Studies by the Kennel Club found that 90 percent of employers who allowed dogs in the workplace have “noticed a positive change in the working environment”. Additionally, the studies found that half of all businesses noted a “decrease in absenteeism”, as well as 56 percent stating that allowing dogs into the workplace has improved work relations.
John Burns, veterinary surgeon and founder of Burns Pet Nutrition, a family company in Wales that makes specialist foods designed for the health and wellbeing of pets, agrees that bringing your pet pal along with you to the office can bring many great benefits. These can be not only to employees’ morale, but also improve the mental and physical health of both employees and your dog.
“The human-animal bond can be a very special one that can have profound health benefits that should not be under-estimated. Owning a dog in particular is more likely to lead to a more active lifestyle. But there are also deep psychological benefits in terms of emotional wellbeing that mean that individuals are less likely to get stressed, sick or, as some studies have proven, take time off work with sick leave.”
Dogs reduce stress and boost morale
A study by International Journal of Workplace Health Management found a significant difference in the stress levels of a group of employees allowed to bring their dogs to work, compared with a group of employees that were not. There was also a substantial difference in stress patters for the employees in the group allowed to bring their dogs to work, on days their dogs were present and absent.
An additional study, conducted by Kennel Club, the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to protecting and promoting the health and welfare of all dogs, has shown that allowing dogs into the workplace can significantly reduce stress levels, as well as allow employees to cope with stressful situations better when dogs are present – in turn, lowering the blood pressure of employees.
Alan Brayley, managing director of AB Glass in Swansea, takes two of his own dogs to work. While it started as a matter of convenience on select occasions, he quickly realised that it was having a wider, positive effect on the company and its staff. As well as being helpful for security, the dogs brought a lighter mood to the place and acted as stress relief on occasion.
“At AB Glass, we have Billy, our “Jawkey” (Jack Russel cross Yorkshire Terrier) as head of security, and his second in command, Alfie the German Shepherd.
“We began allowing dogs into the workplace for security measures, but we rapidly saw other benefits too. We feel it adds another dimension to our working environment, improving our employees’ wellbeing as a result of the workplace being more relaxed and friendly.”
At Burns Pet Nutrition, John Burns offers an open-door policy to well-behaved dogs and provides free onsite kennels for staff to use. John explains: “It’s difficult to get too stressed when there’s a waggy-tailed companion around.
“Taking a break from the computer screen and getting fresh air is great in theory, but many people fail to do so and remain chained to their desk. With a dog, there is a real sense of urgency to walk them, it’s not optional. A lunchtime walk is great bonding time, great exercise and a great chance to blow away the morning’s cobwebs.”
Dogs boost sales
OK, so the evidence is more anecdotal, but there is evidence that in the right environment dogs can help businesses be more successful, boosting sales and profitability. The best example of this is probably in the hospitality industry where a growing number of businesses – ranging from accommodations to restaurants to caravan and camping sites – are becoming dog friendly, making “staycations” a favourable option for UK residents over travelling abroad for a holiday.
But there are also some good examples in the world of retail. Gary Llewellyn, owner of Llewellyn’s Galley, an art and photography gallery in Tenby, shares his workplace with two Archie and April – two Irish large red setters who greet prospective customers and spend the day in the gallery with Gary. The photographer says that 99.9% of customers love his two well behaved dogs and they can play a key role in helping sales.
“There are many people who come in just to see the dogs – so that is a lot more return visitors,” Gary says. “We have a sign in the window saying that well behaved dogs are welcome and that encourages dog lovers to come into the shop – with or without their own. They are also fantastic at entertaining the children while their parents browse through the art or want to discuss it uninterrupted. That certainly helps me engage with customers and must help sales.”
Dogs boost productivity
Not only is boosting the morale of your staff crucial to obtaining a happy and motivated workforce, but ensuring productivity is high is equally important to meet business goals. Research shows that taking regular short breaks increases an employee’s productivity. Allowing dogs in the workplace enables employees to step away from their desk and pay attention to the dog for a short period of time. This, as a result, also increases the exercise of employees – playing games with the dog, as well taking the dog outside for fresh air.
The benefits of dogs being in the workplace is central to the company ethos of BrewDog, the brewer of draft beers and pub chain. All of its pubs are dog friendly and its staff are allowed to bring them to work. It has now even gone as far as introducing Puppy Parental Leave, which gives staff a working week’s leave to help settle a new furry family member into their home.
“We care about many things but have two main focuses above all others – our beer and our people. And over the years we have noticed that our people also care about many things but have two main focuses above all others – our beer and their dogs. We totally get that. That’s why we let them bring their four-legged friends to work at BrewDog, and why we are now going one better with the latest awesome – or should that be pawesome – staff perk.
“Yes, having dogs in our offices makes everyone else more chilled and relaxed – but we know only too well that having a new arrival – whether a mewling pup or unsettled rescue dog – can be stressful for both the human and hound. So, we are becoming the first in our industry to give our staff a working week’s leave on us to help settle a new furry family member into their home.
“Puppy Parental Leave will support nervy canines and their owners alike in those all-important first few days of the greatest relationship a person can have (children excepted).”
John Burns adds: “Dogs boost productivity because they inspire co-operation, socialisation and teamwork. There is no cost to the employer, but the improved morale in the workplace can be priceless.”
Dogs can save staff money and time
Being allowed to bring your pet to work eliminates the common problem of employees needing to rush home from work to let the dog out, or pick them up from doggy day care. Additionally, it saves them the costs of putting their dogs into these day care units – it’s a win-win!
Sam Grey, founder of SG Locksmiths, says that his three-year-old Labrador, Teggy, has been an integral part of his company since he launched – keeping him company, saving him time and money and endearing him to customers.
“Since setting up my company in February, I worried about being out all day and leaving my three-year-old Labrador, Teggy, alone. So, she now comes with me on my jobs and she’s definitely a winner with my customers – she’s our company mascot!
John Burns suggests that the rising weekly rate of kennels is comparative to nursery costs, so allowing employees to bring their dog to work can be a massive saving, as well as cutting down travelling time.