Making the Case for Pets at Work

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(Photo above: PAMELA HULSE ANDREWS CEO/Founder with Liberty and Rocky | Photo by Jamie Wood)

Bringing your pet to work is still a fairly rare perk at most companies, even in Central Oregon, but there are definitely benefits to doing so. A study in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that people who bring their dogs into the workplace are less stressed, and that a sense of job satisfaction extends to people who come into contact with the pet.

Cascade Business News (CBN) has two ambassadors who greet visitors everyday at the office: Liberty (a lab/border collie mix found as a puppy abandoned on Alfalfa Market Road…we call her the ‘perfect’ dog, very sweet well-behaved, polite) and Rocky (recently adopted from the Humane Society of Central Oregon when Liberty’s pal, Indiana, a kooky golden retriever passed to dog heaven at the age of 17. Rocky is a small, chunky white mixed terrier. Adorable and funny, thinks he’s the watch dog, barks when anyone walks by the office, but welcomes them inside.)

Occasionally Noble, a very large yellow lab sweet as pie, visits the office with his best friend Jeff Martin. Over the last 25 years at CBN there have always been dogs in the office, with a dog run built beside the building so they’re free to
be outside.

My staff will admit that the dogs keep them busy…when they want out they usually press their noses to anyone who will pay attention. They certainly bring a lot of laughs especially when Rocky rolls on his back and sticks his feet straight up in the air or drags his blanket out to the waiting room.

“Dogs in the workplace can make a positive difference,” wrote principal investigator Randolph T. Barker, Ph.D. and professor of management in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business during a survey. “The differences in perceived stress between days the dog was present and absent were significant. The employees as a whole had higher job satisfaction than
industry norms.”

According to the American Pet Product Association (APPA), pet owners as a whole spent approximately $63 billion on their pets in 2016, an increase of more than 25 percent from 2010. During this same time period the percentage of pet owners remained relatively stable, growing only three percent, which means average spending far surpasses the growth of the pet population.

As you know Central Oregon is a dog paradise. Every other car on the road seems to have a dog hanging out the window. Babyboomers, many who still work and operate their businesses, treat their dogs as they once cared for their own children.

The millennial generation is no slouch at helping to bolster the pet industry and the rising dog parent trend. Christina Russell, president of Camp Bow Wow, noticed this generation is often getting married later, deferring having children and as a result, often filling that gap with pets. According to research firm GfK, 57 percent of millennial households own a dog versus 51 percent of all U.S. Perhaps allowing dogs at work will keep millennials in their jobs longer?

The pet services outlook through 2020 is strong and seemingly will stay in that direction as millennials’ disposable income will continue to grow and the concept of pet parents will replace the idea of traditional pet owners from
previous generations.

Here’s my pitch for making dogs an integral part of your company’s culture. Pet-friendly offices are a growing trend and for good reason. If you can make it work it could be beneficial to your company’s bottom line, boosting morale and productivity and even attracting customers and offering an extra friendly greeting in the office.

Lowering Stress: Petting a dog is a feel good maneuver. If you and your staff are having a challenging day, studies have shown that petting a dog can increase levels of stress-reducing hormones and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol. If the dog is trained to be at the office it will not run around barking and jumping on people but provide a relief from the demands of workplace deadlines.

Improve Employee Wellness: According to studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, owning a pet can decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels and increase opportunities for exercise and socialization, both of which have immense health benefits.

Improved Work-Life Balance: When pet owners come to work they have to worry about what to do with their dogs during the day. Bringing them to work means employees aren’t worrying about their pets sitting at home alone all day. This is particularly important for employees who have young puppies who need constant watching or senior dogs who need medicine and special care. Employees won’t be rushing home in the middle of the day or leave early to care for their pets.

Get Creative: A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found going for a walk can boost creative thinking by as much as sixty percent compared to sitting. Take your dog!

Customer Service: Unless you have a customer who is really anti-dog most people will warm immediately to a special friendly greeting. At our office people will bring treats by just for the dogs…keeps you in touch with your customers.

Staff Relationships: A 2010 study from Central Michigan University revealed dogs in the workplace can lead to more trust between coworkers, resulting in greater collaboration.

We sent photographer Jamie Wood out to G5 to take some photos of dogs at their workplace. The company is renowned for its dog friendly atmosphere as well as being recognized in OUTSIDE’s Best Places to Work 2016. Each year, OUTSIDE recognizes the top 100 companies in the United States that help their employees strike the ideal balance between work and play. G5 especially encourages its employees to lead an active lifestyle, are eco-conscious and prioritize giving back to the community. Thanks G5 for setting a great workplace example.

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