They say a dog is a man’s (or woman’s) best friend. But can having one around the office bring entrepreneurs happiness? Here’s some paws for thoughts. Forty six per cent of workers would work better with their favourite animal around, and a quarter would be willing to take a lower paid job if it meant they could take their pet to work, according to research published by online recruitment agency Reed.co.uk, and seen exclusively by HR magazine.
Yet dogs in the workplace are a rare sight. Only eight per cent of employees in the UK are allowed to bring theirs with them. There’s even a national Bring Your Dog to Work Day (usually June 23rd, but 24th this year) to encourage the practice of doing so.
It may be that the boss is concerned about health and safety or is worried about how much disruption it will cause - it might chew through some telephone cables or raid the kitchen cupboards - but for those who have already welcomed furry friends into the working environment, the benefits are therapeutic. And there’s plenty of evidence to support this.
At the agency JAMpr, the office dog helps to diffuse problems, says managing director Jaime Gee.
"We’re a small team at JAM, so it’s a really fast-paced, hard-working environment. Maurice, our resident Frenchie, helps to ease any stress and tension. He brings a welcome distraction when you’re stuck staring at a problem or have writer’s block."
Having a dog around can reduce stress by up to a third and can consequently boost work output, neuroscientist and professor at Claremont Graduate University in California, Paul Zak, found. This is because animals have an impact on the primary stress response system and keeping it in check is vital for staying productive and creative.
Playing with a canine can also increase levels of oxytocin. The hormone is best known for its role in human and animal bonding and can improve our sociability and how we get along. This could explain why studies have concluded that team members with dogs are likely to rate each other more highly on intimacy and trust-worthiness than team members without.
Companies have made similar observations when it comes to building rapport with new clients.
Karen Jones is founder and CEO of Citywealth, a publishing and events company aimed at private wealth management professionals. Her black poodle Ben, who she describes as "a handsome fellow of gentle disposition and a great character", plays an important role in improving the relationship between the team and clients and sponsors, she says. If anyone comes into the office slightly apprehensive for whatever reason, being welcomed by Ben and stroking him can relax them.
Sometimes the presence of a dog is just good for general well-being. A review in the British Journal of Health Psychology showed evidence that dog owners have lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
"As a reasonably new company, we have inherited some [bad] start-up traits," says Alex Mellor, co-founder of Noir Agency. "As much as my business partner, Anthony, and I encourage everybody to take breaks, to get away from their screens, walk about or read, nobody does enough of this. So now we bring a puppy called Bruno to the office.
"As well as being an expression of the business’ personality, and giving everybody good vibes by just being around us, he encourages us to get up from behind our desks and stretch our legs."
Allowing dogs in the office can improve morale, encourage physical activity, and even help create a working environment where employees can thrive and be at their most productive and creative. You wouldn’t be barking mad if you opened your door to them.
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