Benefits of taking Fido to work may not be far 'fetched'

Mar 30, 2012

Man's best friend may make a positive difference in the workplace by reducing stress and making the job more satisfying for other employees, according to a Virginia Commonwealth University study.

Stress is a major contributor to employee absenteeism, morale and burnout and results in significant loss of productivity and resources. But a preliminary study, published in the March issue of the International Journal of Workplace , found that in the workplace may buffer the impact of stress during the workday for their owners and make the job more satisfying for those with whom they come into contact.

The VCU researchers compared who bring their dogs to work, employees who do not bring their dogs to work and employees without pets in the areas of stress, , and support.

"Although preliminary, this study provides the first quantitative study of the effects of employees' in the workplace setting on employee stress, job satisfaction, support and commitment," said principal investigator Randolph T. Barker, Ph.D., professor of management in the VCU School of Business.

"Dogs in the workplace can make a positive difference," he said. "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."

The study took place at Replacements, Ltd., a service-manufacturing-retail company located in Greensboro, N.C., which employs approximately 550 people. Approximately 20 to 30 dogs are on the company premises each day. The study took place over a period of one work week in the company setting, during which time participants completed surveys and collected saliva samples. Pagers were assigned to prompt employees to complete surveys during the day.

The researchers did not observe a difference between the three employee groups on , which was measured via a saliva sample, in the morning, but during the course of the work day, self-reported stress declined for employees with their dogs present and increased for non-pet owners and dog owners who did not bring their dogs to work. The team noted that stress significantly rose during the day when owners left their dogs at home compared to days they brought them to work.

According to Barker, the team observed unique dog-related communication in the workplace that may contribute to employee performance and satisfaction. For example, he said, although not part of the study, that employees without a dog were observed requesting to take a co-worker's dog out on a break. These were brief, positive exchanges as the dogs were taken and returned and also resulted in an employee break involving exercise.

Barker said that other findings revealed mostly positive comments from employees such as "pets in the workplace can be a great bonus for employee morale …," "having dogs here is great stress relief" and "dogs are positive; dogs increase coworker cooperation."

"The effect of pets in reducing the impact of and enhancing communication found in other settings may extend to the workplace," said Barker.

"Pet presence may serve as a low-cost, wellness intervention readily available to many organizations and may enhance organizational satisfaction and perceptions of support. Of course, it is important to have policies in place to ensure only friendly, clean and well-behaved pets are present in the ," he said.

According to Barker, further research with larger sample sizes within the organizational setting is needed to replicate the findings of this initial study.

Randolph Barker collaborated with Janet S. Knisely, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry in the VCU School of Medicine; Sandra B. Barker, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry in the VCU School of Medicine; Rachel K. Cobb, Ph.D., research faculty in the VCU School of Nursing; and Christine M. Schubert, Ph.D., assistant professor of biostatistics at the Air Force Institute of Technology.

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Skepticus
5 / 5 (1) Mar 30, 2012
Bringing a dog to a workplace...sounds like animal cruelty to me. Research should be done on their mental well being!
antonjarrod
not rated yet Apr 01, 2012
There is a bigger problem, which stems from the fundamental unhappiness and dissatisfaction that people feel from their employment, which they believe must just be the case because it cannot be any other way. The real issue is the deeper mental and emotional malaise, social disorder, hopelessness and social inequality, and cannot be solved by taking the dog to work.
ElGuardo
not rated yet Apr 02, 2012
Personally I hate it when people bring their dogs into work. Last time someone brought one in I went home for the day as I refuse to be around them in the workplace.