6 reasons why every office should have a dog after lockdown
Dogs are for life, not just for Christmas — that’s how the old line goes. But it turns out that for 3.2 million UK households, 18 months working from the kitchen table was the perfect opportunity to welcome that much-dreamed-of new puppy into their homes.
But now that pandemic restrictions in Britain have been lifted, the office beckons once again. And historically, it’s not been a place particularly welcoming to our four-legged friends.
But that could be about to change.
Offices in the UK are already making the change to be pet-friendly after lockdown. Bruntwood Works, for example, has made all of its coworking and serviced office spaces in Manchester dog-friendly so that bosses and employees can bring their furry friends to work with them.
The truth is office dogs boast a wealth of mental health benefits that you’ll struggle to replicate with traditional perks like free food or discounted gym memberships.
In fact, dogs could play an instrumental role in the long-term health and productivity of the UK’s office workers.
Do businesses need to take office dogs more seriously?
The term “office dog” might sound like some hipster perk reserved for Silicon Valley tech giants.
But after the pandemic, it’s a weighty topic that major voices are speaking up about. In fact, the RSPCA recently issued a warning that offices should be made dog-friendly wherever possible, after hundreds of thousands of Brits bought puppies during lockdown.
This mandated culture shift towards pet-friendly workspaces isn’t a fanciful trend. Instead, it’s important for the animals themselves. Dogs Trust found a 41% increase in reports of dogs being clingy or following people around the house. ‘Dogs at Work’ policies reduce the mental impact on dogs who would otherwise be forced to spend time alone.
Problematically, the UK’s workplaces are currently unequipped to deal with the increase in pet ownership. The Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA) found that only 15% of pet owners in the UK had pet-friendly offices.
Thankfully, there are plenty of benefits to having four-legged coworkers.
What are the mental health benefits of having a dog?
1. They reduce stress
Pet behaviourist and writer at Improve Dogs, Harsh Goyal, says that “bringing dogs to offices can help in reducing the mental stress and work anxiety of an employee.
“Imagine a dog sitting beside you when you’re stressing out [...] and then he/she starts cuddling you. That little play with the dogs can ease out mental stress and you start feeling rejuvenated once again.”
And there’s plenty of evidence to back up Harsh’s argument. One study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management discovered that employees who brought their dogs with them to work had significantly lower stress levels throughout their workday — regardless of the field they worked in.
2. They boost your mood
Most dogs seem like they’re always happy. So is it any wonder that all this tail-wagging is a pick-me-up for owners too?
In a 2020 survey, 51 percent of respondents said they owned a dog because “they make me happy”. And it’s true: playing with and cuddling our dogs releases oxytocin, the ‘love’ hormone, which boosts your mood and makes you more content to be at work.
“Dogs are jolly in nature and their continuous licking and sniffing are enjoyed by a lot of people in the office,” says Harsh from Improve Dogs. “Allowing pets at work can make a job more satisfying and reduces employee absenteeism, which is a great sign of a healthy work environment.
3. They keep you fit
The vast majority of dog breeds have energy to spare, which is why they can be quite a handful when they don’t get their daily walk.
But that constant need to play, run and go out into the world does a world of good for their owners.
“Dogs remind you to take small breaks and play with them,” says Harsh. “Some leisure activities like short walks with dogs, dog sitting and dog feeding can boost the productivity and efficiency of your staff.”
The science backs it up, too. Dog owners tend to have lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Daily walks and playing with their dogs keeps their hearts strong and helps them maintain a healthy weight, which in turn is known to boost productivity.
4. They help you work better with others
Like humans, dogs are inherently social animals. They’re desperate to greet new people and other pooches, thriving in bustling, co-operative environments.
What’s surprising, though, is that this influences how we behave too. In a study by the Central Michigan University, researchers found test subjects in groups with dogs present showed behaviour that was more co-operative, friendly and attentive than their dogless counterparts.
For businesses where teamwork is essential (and let’s face it — you’ll be hard-pressed to find one where that isn’t the case), this can have serious advantages. Collaborative teams learn from one another, build stronger bonds and typically see accelerated work delivery.
5. They help you stay engaged with your work
One argument you could make about having dogs in the office is that they’re a constant source of distraction, which will surely impact employee productivity.
Strangely, this isn’t actually the case.
Research from the University of Lincoln and Purina revealed that employees who took their dog to work reported increased absorption in their work by a significant 33.4% and in their dedication to work by 16.5%.
That means office dogs could curb the problem of ‘presenteeism’ at work, helping businesses succeed with engaged and motivated employees.
6. They’ll help you get and keep the best staff
While office dogs were once an unusual perk that could evoke a wry smile from LinkedIn commentators, they’re quickly becoming an essential part of the criteria for job hunters.
In fact, a recent survey found that 42% of job seekers listed ‘pet-friendly office’ among their top criteria for a new role.
And it’s not just the new staff that want man’s best friend at work. Dog-friendly work environments are known to increase staff retention too. Better still, 90 percent of employees in pet-friendly workplaces feel highly connected to their company's mission according to a study by Nationwide in partnership with the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI).
How to help your dog settle into the office
The news that office dogs can have significant mental health benefits for your staff might be music to your ears.
But dogs are creatures of habit. While you might have a routine you’ve been able to stick to for the last 18 months, the move back to the office will disrupt that — and some dogs might struggle at first with the adjustment.
Expert Harsh Goyal from Improve Dogs says there are a few things you can do to help your dog get ready for their first day at the office.
Make sure you have the basics nailed
Before you introduce your pooch to your workmates and visiting clients, you’re going to have to get the basics right.
“Start teaching them with some basic dog commands like “Sit”, “Walk”, “Wait” and “Stop”,” says Harsh. “Keep practicing this with your dog until they start reacting positively to these sounds. “Once trained, it will be easier for the employees and other staff to enjoy some quality time with them without running into any trouble.”
Establish their space
Dogs like having their own space as much as we do. And while you can’t exactly allocate them a desk, you can make sure they have somewhere in the office that’s truly theirs.
Harsh’s solution? “Dog spots!”
“Dog spots would be an added advantage if an office has a pet-friendly policy. Dogs love those places which have vibrant colors, nice ambience and some toys to play with.
“Equip the area with dog beds and quality dog food to make the place more comfortable for the canines.”
If your furry friend doesn’t settle easily in new environments, try bringing their bed and some of their toys with them the first few times they visit. That familiar smell of home will have a calming effect and help them associate the office with a place they know is safe.
Make sure they play well with other dogs
One of the problems of lockdown is that your dog is with you all the time, and doesn’t spend time with other dogs as a result
You’ll know from walking your dog whether they’re nervous, aggressive or even overly friendly with other dogs
You need to temper these socialisation issues before Day 1, as there will probably be other dogs in the office they’ll need to get along with. Consider taking your dog to a training class or a taster session at a local doggy daycare to ease them in ahead of their first day on the job.
Another day at the lab(rador)
“Harnessing the benefits of office dogs can drastically improve employee morale and push teamwork to new heights” says Andrew Cooke, Strategic Director at Bruntwood Works.
Andrew believes that Bruntwood’s move to dog-friendly offices will set an example for other UK workspaces. “It’s a productivity hack that complements the growing prioritisation of mental health at work that is defining the best businesses of the 21st century.”