It’s no secret that dogs have a positive effect on our stress levels. Those of us who own pets know the relief of returning home from a hard day at work and finding our pooch greeting us enthusiastically by wagging its tail, jumping at us and giving us kisses. Aside from the numerous studies that can attest to the overall positive effect pets can have on our health, there is now strong indication that dogs can significantly lower stress levels in the work place.
A study by Virginia Commonwealth University found the presence of dogs in the workplace significantly reduced stress on the job. VCU conducted their study with Replacements Ltd., a dinnerware-selling company that has about 550 employees who bring between 20 and 30 dogs to work each day. The researchers measured the stress levels of 76 employees who had been divided into three groups (those who brought their dogs to work, those who owned dogs but left them home and those who don’t own dogs) over the course of a week. They found that by the end of the day, the average stress levels among people who brought their dogs fell about 11%, while they rose as much as 70% among the rest of the participants.
More and more companies have recognized the benefits of “canine coworkers” and allow, or even encourage, employees to bring their dogs to the office. The most famous example of a dog-friendly workplace is probably Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stewart himself is a big dog lover and The Daily Show office has numerous dogs roaming around freely. If you want to follow the example of Stewart & Co. and turn your workplace into a dog-friendly environment, here are 6 tips on how to do it right:
1. Talk to Management and Staff
Regardless of whether you are the CEO or the receptionist of your company, make sure everybody is involved in making the decision to turn the office into a dog-friendly place. You want to have full support from across the board. Get advocates behind you and talk to opponents or undecided coworkers about their concerns.
2. Work Together to Determine Guidelines
Once you have everybody on-board, make sure that they are all involved in establishing guidelines. You want to respect any pet allergies or other issues coworkers might have with the presence of dogs. If your company is large, form a committee consisting of dog owners and non-dog owners to draft a policy that fosters responsible pet ownership.
3. Establish Clear Rules
The clearer your pet policy is, the better your company will manage a dog-friendly workplace. Make sure to establish rules regarding dog breaks, play areas, leash/crate policies, cleaning schedules, etc. You should also consider conducting a “hiring” interview with each dog to see if they’re friendly, quiet, well-behaved/trained, housebroken, etc. Make sure that all dogs permitted to the office are clean, healthy, as well as up on routine vaccinations and flea protection. Be clear about the consequences of violating the rules (i.e. if a dog has to be removed from the office). Employees should sign a waiver and be responsible for any damage to equipment or other employees.
4. Introduce Dogs to the Office Slowly
Dogs should be introduced to this new environment slowly. Consider taking your dog for a walk outside the office and maybe have it peek in for a moment first. The next time, you might want to show your dog around and let it greet your coworkers. Make sure the office space is inviting by providing treats, water and toys. Gradually let your dog stay longer at the office and see if it is comfortable. Some dogs might simply be too fearful and shy for an office environment. Always check for signs of stress or discomfort, like excessive panting, drooling, pinned-back ears, shivering or peeing.
5. Care For Your Dog
This might seem like a no-brainer, but your dog is your responsibility, so you’re the one supposed to care for it. Unless you hire somebody whose duties specifically include caring for your dog at the office, it’s your duty to make sure your dog is well-behaved, fed, being walked, and so forth. Don’t delegate those duties to other coworkers, assistants or interns. Never leave your dog unattended, or arrange for somebody to watch him if you have to leave without interfering with anybody’s work.
6. Consider a Dog-Free Zone
In order to make all employees feel comfortable and even get those who aren’t exactly dog lovers on board with making your office a dog-friendly workplace, you may want to consider creating a dog-free zone for people who have pet allergies or are just not comfortable around dogs. This should be a place where no dogs or items used by dogs are allowed.