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Pets Reduce Stress at Work… More Companies, Citing Benefits, Allowing Pets at Work

Recent study shows pets in the workplace can reduce employee stress… Hmmm, most pet owners knew that years ago without studies!

gan-pets-at-workUSAToday: INDIANAPOLIS — Employers and employees are acknowledging the advantages and benefits of a growing office trend that allows pets in the workplace. And now there’s research to support what some have known for years.

According to a Virginia Commonwealth University study, employees who bring their dogs to work produced lower levels of the stress-causing hormone cortisol.

Published in spring 2012, the study, led by Randolph Barker, a professor of management, was conducted at a dinnerware company in North Carolina, which sees 20 to 30 dogs a day on its premises. As the workday went on, research found average stress level scores fell about 11% among workers who had brought their dogs to work, while they increased 70% for those who did not.

"When I’m stressed, I usually call Zoe (a chocolate Labrador retriever) over and rub her ear. That’s my therapy," said Ann Marie DeLa Rosa, 26, who works at software design company Inverse-Square in downtown Indianapolis and appreciated the company’s pet-friendly policy.

Not only does Zoe, who could be mistaken for a small grizzly bear with a smile, alleviate her stress, DeLa Rosa said, the dog also forces her owner to take a lunch break.

"Zoe gets me out," she said. "Otherwise, I tend to power through lunch when I want to get something done. Taking a 15-minute walk with her refreshes me, and I can focus easier."

According to a 2008 national poll of working Americans 18 and older by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, 17% reported their company permits pets at work. In 2012, the group reported in a separate study that workers surveyed brought their dogs with them to work 22 times in 2012, compared with 17 times in 2008.

Deb Havill, a clinical social worker and therapist, conducts client sessions along with her two rescue dogs. But David and Jai aren’t trained therapy dogs; they just accompany their owner during therapy sessions.

"Dogs were domesticated to be attentive to us," said Havill, who keeps two couches in her Indianapolis office — one for clients and one for the dogs. "It is natural for us to be around them, so to not be around them would be unnatural. We would be in an unnatural state."

Havill explained that touching or petting an animal has been shown to lower the galvanic skin response much like the science behind the polygraph test, when measuring feelings such as fear, stress or anxiety.

"Reaching down and petting a dog is an easy way to ratchet things down when you need to."

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Ann Marie DeLa Rosa is shown with her dog, Zoe, a chocolate Labrador retriever as Hoagey, a yellow lab that belongs to fellow worker, noses in for a little TLC. (Photo: Frank Espich, The Indiapolis Star)

Janet Myers travels all over the country with her Bernese mountain dog, advocating the benefits of pet therapy and animal-assisted activities in health care.

A nurse as well as the director of risk management at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, Ind., Myers founded the hospital’s pet-therapy program and next year will speak at the National Pediatric Nurses conference.

Bentley, her dog, is a popular therapy dog with his own children’s book and schedule of special appearances. But his main job is still to be with his owner in her office at least three times a week.

"It’s been proven that people are always more productive when they are happy," Myers said. "If Bentley is by my side, I am not thinking of needing to be home to care for him or that he’s lonely. I often stay late at work with him snoozing away under my desk. He is a big part of my life."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites dozens of animal experts who report that pets can decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as increase opportunities for exercise and socialization.

Commercial developer Turner Woodard knows this better than anyone. He’s the man who made it possible for employers at The Stutz business center in Indianapolis to have pet-friendly office policies — and about 25% of the tenants take advantage of the perk.

"We know it’s a positive," he said. "We need to see more of it in the world."

However, if you’re looking to implement a formal policy, there are several factors to consider, Barker said.

"You have to think about employee health (allergies), minimizing disruptions and keeping pets safe," he said.

Amazon and Purina, cited as two of the most pet-friendly companies in the country, don’t allow pets because many factories and distribution centers can be dangerous workspaces.

Bob Baird, who brings his two dogs, Ruby and Hoagey to work, knows that when he makes a new hire at Inverse-Square, he might be excluding or discouraging potential applicants who might not like dogs.

"But having dogs here is indicative of our culture," said Baird, whose dog Hoagey, a 110-pound yellow Labrador retriever, is notorious for snoring too loudly during conference calls.

"For us, having dogs in the office is out of necessity," Baird said. "We love having them around because this is (a) home away from home. We work long hours, and it’s nice to have them with us."

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March 4, 2013 Posted by | Adopt Just One More Pet, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, animals, Dogs, Dogs, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dogs at Work Can Alleviate Employee Stress, Study Shows

Dogs At Work

Story at-a-glance
  • A recent study indicates pet owners who bring their dogs to work have less stress throughout the day than pet owners whose dogs are at home, and non-pet owners.
  • Employees with dogs at home experience increasing levels of stress during the workday as the number of hours their pet has been left alone piles up.
  • Researchers preliminarily concluded dogs in the workplace might alleviate the effects of stress for their owners, and may also contribute to higher job satisfaction for all employees in the organization, regardless of dog or pet ownership.

Because not all employees appreciate the presence of dogs in the workplace, it’s important for employers contemplating allowing pets at work to set guidelines and remain sensitive to the needs of non-pet owning workers. Otherwise, dogs in the workplace could actually increase the general stress level among employees.

By Dr. Becker

A recent study looked at the impact of pet dogs in the workplace. Specifically, the researchers – four from Virginia Commonwealth University and one from Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio — wanted to find out how the presence of employees’ dogs effects stress levels and job satisfaction.

The Experiment

The study took place over a single workweek. Employees were divided into three groups:

  • DOG group (employees who brought their dogs to work)
  • NODOG group (employees who owned dogs but left them at home)
  • NOPET group (employees who didn’t own pets)

Employee stress levels were measured using a visual analog scale (VAS) and by measuring morning cortisol levels. A VAS is a psychological measurement tool used in questionnaires. It’s designed to assess subjective characteristics or attitudes that cannot be directly measured. Study participants give their level of agreement to a VAS question by picking a position (for example, “none,” “mild,” “moderate,” or “severe”) on a continuous line between two end-points.

Researchers also measured employee attitudes toward the workplace and toward animals in the workplace

Study Results

VAS scores were lowest for the DOG group, middle-of-the-road for the NOPET group, and highest for the NODOG group. Interestingly, the stress level of employees with dogs at home increased significantly as the day wore on, indicating working pet owners may grow anxious the longer their dogs are left alone.

Over the course of the workday, stress decreased for the DOG group and increased for the NODOG and NOPET groups. The NODOG group had much higher stress levels than the DOG group at the end of the day. Also, the researchers observed a marked difference in stress patterns for the DOG group depending on whether or not their pets were with them on a particular day. On days when they left their dogs home, the owners’ stress level elevated throughout the day very similar to the pattern of the NODOG group.

Employee feelings about dogs in the workplace ranged from mostly positive for those who brought their dogs to work, to mostly negative for non-pet owners who were bothered by noise, disruption or hygiene issues created by the presence of the dogs.

The researchers concluded their preliminary findings demonstrate dogs in the workplace may mitigate the effects of stress for their owners, and may also contribute to higher job satisfaction for all employees in the organization, regardless of dog or pet ownership.

However…

Dr. Kathleen Ruby of Washington State University, writing for Clinician’s Brief, offers the following caution for veterinary professionals and employers who may be contemplating a bring-your-dog-to-work initiative:

“This study indicated that while some love doggy colleagues, some do not. The bell curve reasserts itself in this debate and may divide as much as it unites. As pet promoters, veterinary professionals would do well to advise employers seeking to add pet visits to benefit packages to set guidelines about cleanliness, behavior, and owner/pet breaks before opening the office door to the dogs. Failure to do so may stress as many as it soothes.”

Related:

12 companies that let you bring your dog to work

Chapman University Hosts ‘Furry Friends For Finals’

Londonderry School Uses Therapy Dog in Classroom

November 26, 2012 Posted by | Adopt Just One More Pet, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, animals, Dogs, Dogs, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, NO KILL NATION, Pet and Animal Training, Pets, Political Change, responsible pet ownership, Success Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , | 2 Comments