Does your office allow dogs? Well maybe it should. it's a growing trend in the UK, as employers look for new ways to beat stress, which is the number one cause of employee absence; but it now appears that a dog in the office has other surprising beneficial effects too, such as increased productivity.
Christopher Honts and his colleagues at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, conducted a study to see what the effects of a dog in the office were,. The study involved 12 groups, each made up of 4 people, collaborating on a 15 second advert for a made up product. Some groups included a waggy tailed 5th member. The volunteers were monitored through out and given questionnaires which showed that In the teams that included a dog, the group scored far higher on trust, team cohesion and cooperation, which resulted in greater productivity and reduced stress.
My partner and I run a London dog walking firm, and we see first hand the impact that dogs have in the office. When the office dog returns, (he is usually the boss's pet) almost everyone smiles and a few always want to know how his walk was, and say hello to him. It's a stark contrast with non dog friendly offices, at which you are lucky if you get acknowledged, (we only visit these hell holes to pick up keys on rare occasions!). It is quite obvious that the presence of a dog changes the atmosphere for the better, and that is certainly the feedback that we get.
Research from further afield shows the same information; quite simply, dogs reduce stress and make us happier. Schools, hospitals and even prisons using animal therapy all report that dogs make for a happier and more cooperative, empathic environment. In mental institutions, studies have shown that there is less need for restraints and sedatives where animals are present (this may also be the case in some offices).
Unless you are prepared to start a persuasive campaign petition, or are very lucky, you will most likely need to be your own boss if you want a dog at work, as a dog requires love and care 24 hours a day, regular walks and enough income to employ a dog walker or boarder when needed.. If you do succeed, it is vital to pick your dog very carefully, and get expert advice on what is suitable for your environment; but once these requirements are met, the benefits can be enormous.
Dogs not only encourage empathic behaviour in humans, they create a talking point and a non judgemental friend that bonds everyone. You can get talking to anyone over the office dog, in fact, one study showed that on meeting new people, the presence of a dog made people comfortable with each other 45% faster than without a dog present. What could be a better business companion?
Perhaps we should all ride a horse to work too. That would be far more fun than the tube or bus, and you might even win a rosette if you get there really quick.