Dogs at work are the latest perk to have employees salivating with envy. From Nestle Purina's "bring your dog to work day" to the "woof-top" dog park built on top of Zynga's San Francisco headquarters, a growing number of companies are letting employees bring their pooches to work.
The office is not your home, however. If it's not appropriate for your employees to wander around in their PJs, why should you welcome dogs at work? Let's take a look at the pros and cons, and whether it actually affects employee engagement:
Pooches reduce workplace stress
Employees who bring their pets have less stress. In one study, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University found that workers who had dogs nearby experienced declining levels of stress throughout the day, but stress levels spiked by 70 percent for workers who left their dogs at home. From a work-life balance perspective, bringing your dog to work means that employees don't have to worry about their four-legged friends sitting home alone all day. Pooches also contribute to the casual feel of the work environment and introduce a tangible sense of fun that relieves stress.
Staff members become more sociable
One of the reasons pets have such a marked effect on workplace-related stress is because they encourage the staff to open up socially. Even on the most hectic days, team members walking past a dog tend to engage in mushy, one-way conversations and scratch the dog's belly. A dog's antics give co-workers something to laugh about, and this binds them together — making for a friendlier office environment that, according to Purina, boosts productivity.
Dogs can distract co-workers
While a study by Central Michigan University confirms that dogs at work could help build camaraderie and trust, the study also admits that pets can distract some employees. What if co-workers have an allergy or phobia? Employees are unlikely to work efficiently if they must chain-swallow antihistamines or cower in their office to avoid canines. Also, what impression might clients get if they hear barking in the background?
Pet-free zones can help
Employers who ignore the wishes of canine-loathing staff do risk alienating a portion of their workforce. That’s why it's crucial to lay down the ground rules before you invite your tail-wagging friends — and that includes designating pet-free zones for workers who are uncomfortable around dogs. Ultimately, the burden of avoiding messes and aggressive behavior lies with the pet owner. It's a perk that comes with responsibility.
Inviting dogs to work may not be for everyone, and staff buy-in is crucial. However, if both the dog and team are happy, then maybe it's worth giving dogs at work a trial run.