More than 50% of offices in Taiwan have an office dog, but Australia has been slow to catch on despite research which indicates having a dog at work reduces workplace stress, lowers blood pressure and heightens levels of endorphins.
According to stress expert Dr Roger Henderson, having a dog nearby in stressful situations can have a calming effect and release human ‘feel-good’ hormones. Additional benefits of keeping an office pooch include reduced nerves, indigestion, headaches, coughs and tiredness. “I would like to see many more dogs involved in working environments,” Henderson said.
In 2010 researchers from Central Michigan University tested the previously anecdotal theory that dogs can improve workplace positivity and productivity. The study involved assembling two groups of volunteers, assigning group tasks to each group, and dispatching a dog to one group. They found that having a sociable and well behaved canine present increased cooperation, trust, team cohesion, and intimacy between coworkers.
Additionally, an organisational learning lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) said a large body of research indicates having fun at work can vastly improve productivity. “If the employee is happy to be at the workplace and having fun then they eagerly go to work, they have [fewer] sickies and time off and, more importantly, they're about 30 to 40% more productive," Dr Tony Holland said. Holland added that employers could get a major return for making a relatively small investment in fun. “It attracts good employees, they readily work there, they'll probably work for slightly less remuneration and they'll probably stay there for longer.”
Walking the talk
Experience gift voucher company Red Balloon enjoys the company of their office spoodle, and corporate engagement specialist James Wright said they see him as a living embodiment of having a sense of humour at work.
“He runs about the office for most of the day and you can take him for a walk at lunchtime if you want. If you're lucky he'll sit at your feet underneath your desk on a cold day.”
Music management company, HPR, is another advocate of pet therapy. ‘George, my miniature Schnauzer, comes in to the office five days a week. He’s a great excuse for all of us to let off steam – if you’re stressed you can play with him and his pull-rope, or take him for a walk, and get out of the office for a while,” director Graham Hill said.
Hill urges other companies to take note: “If more people had a dog around the office, then staff would be able to take a break and laugh throughout the day. The benefits are immeasurable; just the act of looking at George is enough to make people relax and smile.”
Top dogs of the office
The following are the top breeds recommended by vet Desiree Mitton of the charity Blue Cross (which also organises the annual ‘Take A Dog To Work Day’).
Golden Retrievers: “They’re patient with people, all-round good characters,” Mitton said.
Greyhounds and Dalmatians: Also recommended by Mitton, because they are non-threatening.
Yorkshire Terriers: “Sweet in the office, but sometimes stroppy, like Jack Russells.”
Beagle: “They also make people relaxed.”
Dobermans and pit bulls were not on the list.
Top Lighter Side
Fringe benefits: Would an on-site hairdressing salon boost engagement?
Bad bosses worse than smoking for the heart
Couriers told to cut the flirty-flirty