By Dr. Becker
For many of us, four-legged friends are such an integral part of our lives that we share everything with them, from sleeping spaces to vacations to a mat in front of the fireplace. Pets factor heavily into our food and medical budgets and even pose with us for family portraits.
According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), more pets live in American households than ever before. In fact, 82.5 million homes contain at least one pet, with dogs being in the majority.1 Yes, they enhance life tremendously, but should we take them with us to the workplace?
According to an APPA poll in 2008, 17 percent of working Americans reported their companies provide permits so they can take pets to work. Between 2008 and 2012, the number of times employees picked up the option to bring their best buddies into work with them rose from 17 to 22.2
As with so many things in life, the advantages as well as disadvantages of allowing dogs in the workplace need to be considered. First, the pros…
Pro: Dogs Can Relieve Stress
Your dog can be worth his weight in gold in his ability to keep you cool, calm and collected. A 2012 study3 involving four researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University and Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio showed that employees who took their dogs to work produced lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. On the other hand, workers who didn't own dogs or didn't take them to work experienced steadily increasing levels of nervous tension throughout the day.
Pro: Dogs Can Boost Morale
When the job gets a little squirrely and you need a breather, what could provide a more pleasant pause than saying a quick hello to the pup two cubicles down? Dogs lend a friendly, congenial ambiance to even the most intense office environments. When you discover coworkers with furry friends, it can encourage camaraderie and help develop friendships with people you might not meet otherwise. It might even open doors for future teamwork.
Pro: Improved Concentration
Some dog owners are bothered at work by worries about getting home in time to take Buddy for a walk, or otherwise check on him. With these thoughts in mind within a few hours of arriving at work each and every day, it can be a serious distraction. How much better it would be for employees to be confident that Buddy's fine right there in the corner, so work can flow without anxiety and fewer extended lunch breaks.
Pro: Increased Efficiency
Workers with good morale and focus in a friendly atmosphere add up to a rise in productivity. Not surprisingly, happy employees simply get more done. The APPA study mentioned above also reported that when pets are allowed in the workplace, companies notice their employees work longer and are absent less often. It's a win-win.
Pro: The Right People for the Job
Businesses offering good salaries, pensions and medical plans are attractive to prospective employees. In the same way, companies that adopt a pet-friendly program demonstrate how much the firm really cares about the happiness and well-being of the people who work there. When job seekers learn about this provision at a company they're looking at, they can be assured it will likely be a place with employee-friendly policies, as well.
Con: Not Everyone Is a Dog Lover
As adorable as you may find your precious pup to be, there might be a few who believe the only good dog in the workplace is no dog at all. It could be fear, or based on a previous, negative experience. Whatever the reason, people who aren't crazy about canines shouldn't have to interact with them on the job. However, it's possible that in time, your dog's good behavior will win over the coworker who doesn't yet appreciate the advantages of the program.
Con: Dogs at Work Might Be Considered a Distraction
Well-behaved dogs are one thing – one who barks, whimpers incessantly or trots down the hall seeking mischief isn't likely to win any favors, especially in a fast-moving environment. After all, the purpose on the job is to work. Dog owners also might find that Buddy looking adorable and being within reach is just too tempting, and spend more time tummy scratching than generating reports. Quell any reservations your coworkers and bosses might have by making sure your canine companion has the training needed to ensure he's quiet and content, even on the job.
Con: Pet Allergies
One reason some people might not be crazy about having a dog in the next cubicle is pet allergies. Even those who don't live with a pet can develop asthma or rhinitis, just from frequent exposure.4 This is something to consider before taking Fluffy to work in the first place, but making sure she's healthy and bathed regularly – and her pet pillow laundered often – will go a long way toward promoting more tolerance from fellow staff members.
Con: Safety Concerns
Can you imagine the hassle if someone brought a dog to work, and he proceeded to rip the stuffings out of your boss's ergonomically correct designer desk chair, then overturned the water cooler in a burst of puppy playfulness? This would have an extremely negative effect on the open-door policy extended to all other dogs for years to come, not to mention the legal ramifications if someone in the office suffered a dog bite. If you have doubts about your dog's decorum, leave him at home.
Con: Dogs Aren't Always a Good Fit
If he's a regular Marmaduke or even a Golden Retriever, there simply may not be enough room for your dog to fit comfortably in your office or the workplace at large. Your company may also not be a good fit, depending on the atmosphere, formality and professional expectations of clients who come to do business. This is an area where employees need to be realistic as well as considerate when making this call – so management doesn't have to.