Office Pets Can Make You Less Stressed, Studies Say, and Furry Co-Workers Rank High at Some Companies
June 19 is National Take Your Cat to Work Day and June 25 is National Take Your Dog to Work Day, but we'd argue that every work day is enhanced with a furry companion by your side. And we're not the only ones rallying for pets in the office—some preliminary studies suggest office pets bring their own benefits, including relieving stress as you rush to meet deadlines.
How Office Pets Brighten the Workday
Sure, a curious cat or pup might require a little distraction so they don't ambush your Zoom meetings. But many people believe inviting pets into the workplace help alter the atmosphere for the better, which could be essential for mental health and foster a more progressive company culture.
For example, corporations such as Amazon, Ben & Jerry's, and Google have policies allowing employees to bring their pets to work. Amazon consistently ranks as one of the top dog-friendly companies in the U.S., according to Business News Daily. The online services provider shares the workplace with approximately 7,000 co-woofers and celebrates them in a "Meet the Dogs of Amazon" video. A company spokesperson said that in addition to lowering stress and boosting morale, "dogs in the workplace are an unexpected mechanism for connection. I see employees meeting each other in our lobbies or elevators every day because of their dogs."
Google has been known to fill conference rooms with puppies just so employees can roll around with them (and consider adopting).
Cats in the workplace shouldn't be overlooked either. Since 2000, the Ferray Corporation in Tokyo has become known as the "company where you can work with cats." It provides a stipend to employees to adopt shelter cats and bring them to work to increase productivity and happiness. Yes, they sometimes walk across keyboards and telephones—and new employees have to clean litter boxes!—but the CEO believes the kitties help reduce the stress of working in front of computers all day.
It's also not uncommon to find cats in bookstores, too, where—similar to cat cafés—you can peruse the shelves and mingle with adoptable cats. Employees and patrons alike relish these environments that allow them to decompress with a purring furball.
Studies About Office Pets
Obviously, these and other companies have not only listened to the desires of their employees, but also reviewed the data from various studies highlighting the positive attributes of furry and snuggly co-workers. Here are a few findings:
- An often-cited study from Virginia Commonwealth University found that dogs, in particular, may help to reduce stress levels and improve job satisfaction. "Although preliminary, this study provides the first quantitative study of the effects of employees' pet dogs in the workplace setting on employee stress, job satisfaction, support, and commitment," said principal investigator Randolph T. Barker, Ph.D., professor of management in the VCU School of Business, in a university press release.
- A joint study involving Human-Animal Bond Research Institute and Nationwide Pet Insurance examined various factors of office pet policies and how they impacted areas of employee job satisfaction, task engagement, company attraction, retention, attendance, and co-worker relationships, to list just a few. Overall, positive results were in the 80–90 percentile, and one conclusive finding was "workplaces with pets present or those with pet supportive policies have employees who feel healthier overall, suggesting that benefits of these policies extend beyond the workplace to impact employees' holistic self."
- Some people theorize that the findings from a Washington State University study involving improved cognitive functioning among students who interacted with dogs means pets in the workplace have the potential to boost productivity.
- A dog-specific multiple case study indicated that in combination with other authentic corporate efforts—such as autonomy, flexible hours, and open communication—"the results of the study generally support the belief that dogs at the workplace can have a positive influence on individual and collective well-being of organizational members in an office environment."
Some of these studies also noted that simply having to get up to take your pooch for a walk or a quick romp in the company-sponsored dog park reminds employees to take breaks and increase their activity levels, too.
Including Office Pets in Your Workplace
Of course, not all employees benefit from pets at work. For instance, one primary reason why the majority of companies are more dog-friendly is because there are twice as many people allergic to cats than dogs, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. However, since there's no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog, some pups spark sniffles and sneezes, too.
So although numerous individuals would simply love to have their best furry friends with them from 9–5 if a WFH option isn't available, there are many stipulations for making the workplace environment inviting to everyone.
If you're interested in how to create a more pet-friendly office, Mars Petcare, another company with many pet co-workers, also developed a helpful Pets at Work Toolkit that can help you get started.
Additional reporting by Perri Ormont Blumberg.