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Having a Ruff Day?

Vivienne Dean

Officer Manager

Feeling gratitude, and not expressing it, is like wrapping a present and not giving it

What do you call a dog that can do magic tricks …… a Labracadabrador.

Being a dog person myself (and therefore somewhat biased), I think companies are barking mad not to consider the advantages that our canine friends can bring to staff wellbeing!

Besides having your own personal shredder (who needs fancy toys when you can have a piece of cardboard!), you may be surprised to hear some of the hidden benefits we’ve experienced after welcoming Bea and Bo into our offices.

It’s hard to be overwhelmed by work when a ball of fur goes bounding by or comes to say hello (usually when you happen to have food, funny that). They’re great mini therapists. Having a dog in the office has been proven to reduce stress, while increasing productivity.  No matter how bad a day I’m having, when Bo comes up to me squeaking her favourite pig toy, I can’t help but smile. After some cuddles with a pooch, it’s guaranteed I will return to the task at hand with renewed purpose – ultimately, getting much more work done in the long run!

If you’re concerned at all about the amount of exercise our lovely Labs get on a day to day basis, it’s not uncommon for people to actively seek out Bea and Bo, who love nothing more than playing a game of fetch in our wonderful open plan office with whoever happens to be in need of a well-earned break.

We joke that they’re an integral part of our Marketing department, but they do add an extra dynamic to the office environment, evidenced by having been nominated (tongue in cheek) in the recent Webbie Award category “For lifting everybody’s spirits”. They have even surprised us by becoming quite an effective recruitment tool. We’ve had applicants say that one of the reasons  they applied to work with us was due to our office-based Labs. They’ve even been known to sit in on an interview or two and have sneaked into meetings when their favourite customers come to visit. I’ve often thought that having them in the office helps to soften the company’s image and makes the business seem more progressive and forward thinking to an external party.

An office dog can be a great bonding tool. Introduce a dog into the office and many people want to be where the dog is, and in doing so, happen to be spending time with each other. This shared interest produces a point of conversation, creating camaraderie within the workplace and triggering interactions that may not have happened without them. Good communication is vital in any successful workplace and it’s a key foundation of building trust in one another. This build-up of trust and communication combats stress and promotes productivity, having the knock-on effect of improved morale and reduced absenteeism.

Now, this isn’t a new discovery. According to research by Reed.co.uk, 8% of employees in the UK are now able to bring their furry four-legged friends into the office. Academics have also done studies on the benefits of canine co-workers. In a study  by organisational psychologists at Central Michigan University, members of groups who had a dog present rated each other more highly on measures of intimacy, team cohesion and trust than members of groups where dogs were not present.

Let’s paws and reflect.

Not everyone is a dog lover and dog-friendly policies just aren’t suitable for certain places of business or professional settings. Some people suffer from allergies or phobias; therefore, serious consideration should be given before implementing a benefit around animals in the workplace. Care should be taken to ensure that employees who do not wish to be in contact with the animals do not feel excluded and dog-free zones should be made available. Dogs can also be a source of distraction – they do need attention and there will be noise, whether it’s from barking or whining. With us having the two, there are those times when there’s an energy explosion and they have a mad half hour playtime. And of course, even the very best behaved dogs have occasional accidents.

If you’re looking to allow dogs in your office, as an employer you should look to draft a comprehensive “pet policy.”  This policy should include consequences for misbehaviour, specify what types of animal are allowed, the frequency with which animals may visit the office, and clearly state how they are to be supervised during their time in the office. You should also be sure to check with your insurers regarding any potential issues.

If you want to reward your staff but don’t have access to a dog, don’t worry. There are companies out there that will bring ex-assistance dogs or very well-trained pets to your office for a De-Stress session.

More and more frequently, employers and employees are discovering that dogs in the workplace make them happier, lower their stress levels, and create a comfortable, flexible environment. I can’t imagine Web Apps without our nutty pair!