Dogs at Work May Boost Engagement, But Don’t Forget the Downsides

Dogs at Work May Boost Engagement, But Don’t Forget the Downsides

Today marks the 20th annual observance of Take Your Dog to Work Day, an event launched by Pet Sitters International in 1999 to promote dog adoption by encouraging organizations to let their dog owner employees bring their canine companions to work for the day. Take Your Dog to Work Day highlights Americans’ increasing level of devotion to their pets, especially among Millennials, the largest generation of pet owners today. Rising rates of pet ownership are inspiring employers to offer benefits like pet insurance and even pet bereavement leave.

Indeed, many dog owners would love it if every day were Take Your Dog to Work Day, and some research purports to show that pet-friendly workplaces have many upsides, from increased employee engagement and loyalty to reduced stress levels and greater overall wellbeing. For instance, a new study from Nationwide and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute suggests that employers with pet-friendly workplaces enjoy greater engagement among all employees, not just dog owners, Nick Otto and Yasemin Sim Esmen report at Employee Benefit News:

According to the study, 91% of the workforce feels more fully engaged in the work compared to 65% of employees who work in a non-friendly workplace, which is defined in the study as one that allows pets in the workplace (regularly or occasionally) and/or offers a pet-friendly employee benefit, such as health insurance. One of the interesting things that the study noted was the camaraderie and positive relationships with both supervisors and coworkers (52% and 53%, respectively) at pet friendly companies versus non-pet-friendly workplaces (14% and 19%).

Still, just a fraction of US employers allow employees to bring their pets to work, but some high-profile organizations do: Amazon has allowed dogs in the office at its Seattle headquarters for about 20 years, Jennifer Calfas reports at Time, and over 1,000 dogs come to work there with their owners on a regular basis. What works for Amazon, however, may not work for all workplaces. As Calfas notes, some dogs aren’t suited to spending time in an office, while some employees will object to having them around:

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Everyone Loves a Dog-Friendly Office Except, Perhaps, the Dogs

Everyone Loves a Dog-Friendly Office Except, Perhaps, the Dogs

In the minds of many pet owners, there’s not much difference in terms of love and loyalty between an animal companion and a two-legged member of one’s family. Millennials are the largest generation of pet owners today and the largest generation in the workforce, so some employers have been reaching out to them with pet-friendly policies: SHRM’s 2015 benefits survey last year that 8 percent of US organizations allowed employees to bring their pets to work, while 9 percent offered veterinary health insurance. Even pet bereavement leave is catching on at a smattering of employers, though this benefit is much less common.

Letting employees bring pets—in most cases, dogs—to work may bring some benefits in terms of morale and employee well being: According to a recent survey of employees and HR leaders by Banfield Pet Hospital, a pet-friendly workplace is widely perceived as a boon to morale and stress reduction, as well as an attractive perk that makes candidates more likely to consider an employer. So what’s not to like?

Well, veterinary student Matt Miller argues at Slate, what’s good for the pet owner isn’t necessarily good for the pet, and your typical dog isn’t comfortable in an office environment:

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