Dogs. They’re (wo)man’s best friend – and for good reason. Pooches are loyal, affectionate and give us a great excuse to exercise every day.
But dogs at work, that’s a whole different ballgame. Pets (regardless of how cute they are) aren’t for the workplace, are they? Yet, there are a growing number of businesses that disagree. Many are actively encouraging employees to bring their dogs into work – and for good reason. Having a dog strolling around the office brings with it a number of benefits. For one, it can give a well-deserved boost to staff morale. But that’s not all, the sight of a wagging tail also has the power to reduce employee absenteeism, decrease stress and improve the general wellbeing of your workforce.
But don’t just take our word for it. There are plenty of big-name businesses that happily welcome four-legged friends during office hours: Google and Amazon, for instance. Here are two companies that show a lot of affection for our canine friends. According to Google’s policy on pets, dogs are an “integral facet of our company culture”. Cats, on the other hand, don’t get the same treatment. The company’s code of conduct states: “We like cats, but we’re a dog company.” Enough said.
Meanwhile, over at Amazon HQ in Seattle, the same rules apply. There you will often find up to three dozen dogs in the office on any given day (as long as they are toilet trained and vaccinated, that is).
Perhaps this is the reason why these two Internet giants dominate the list of companies people would go to work for if they could. A happy workplace (and a happy workforce to fill it) are the stuff every manager’s dreams are made of. Stress can cause a significant drain on business productivity. According to Towers Watson’s Global Benefits Attitudes Survey, high levels of stress among staff can result in poor levels of staff engagement and lower productivity. Any steps that can be taken to alleviate the amount of stress felt by employees should be welcomed – whether they are steps taken by two legs or four…
Of course, there are some downsides to having a dog-friendly policy at work. Some colleagues may be allergic to dogs, others may have canine phobias, and let’s not mention the risk of dog smell, dry-humping or barking at inopportune moments. Meanwhile, from a behavioural perspective some breeds are simply not suited to being in an office all day.
But it’s not just an office dog that can help boost staff morale and productivity. Plenty of companies are experimenting with a range of techniques to achieve a more zen-like office environment. One idea currently increasing in popularity is meditation for staff. In some offices, for 10 minutes a week the boardroom becomes a peaceful retreat and colleagues are encouraged to pop along for lessons in mindfulness. Not only does this lead to a more contented workforce, it can also create a more productive, creative and cohesive workforce, too.
Another great way to boost productivity within the workplace is filling it with plants. Workspaces that are inherently bleak or sparsely decorated do nothing for an employee’s motivation. The less there is to look at the less welcoming the space becomes – this is especially true when windows are scarce too. Pot plants on desks and in communal areas will give any office a breath of fresh air, bringing the outside in and lifting the spirits.
Working shorter hours is another productivity boosting tactic. It may sound counterintuitive, but research repeatedly reveals that we are not designed to focus for eight hours a day, 40 hours a week. Long hours mean our attention spans suffer, as does our ability to analyse, prioritise, and plan. Moreover, a study published in the medical journal, The Lancet, earlier this year linked working long hours with an increased risk of stroke and heart disease. Companies that are bold enough to try this theory will almost certainly reap the benefits.
Have we convinced you yet? We love anything that makes the working day more enjoyable and fun, whatever it involves. Sitting in my plant-filled office, I’m not convinced a whole pack of dogs in the office would work – but even one should be a joy!