For most of us, April is an exciting time of year. Spring is in the air, the weather starts to warm up, Easter is just around the corner (hello, bank holidays!), the days get longer and lighter, and everyone we meet is typically feeling better from the stresses of winter. April is also stress awareness month — helping us all to recognise the signs of work-related stress — and national pet month. Coincidence? We think not.
For many years there has been a correlation between the mood-boosting power of pets and the positive impact they have on our mental health. Having a loyal furry friend by your side can act as a great motivator. They can also help to build friendships outside of your typical social circle and combat loneliness.
Is it time you considered an office pet? Let’s take a closer look at just some of the benefits.
Office pets enhance work-life balance
In 2017, pet food giant, Purina, undertook a survey with thousands of pet lovers across Europe to find out what they thought about office pets. A whopping 40% of those surveyed said that having their furry friend accompany them to work enhanced their work-life balance.
It’s so easy to get sucked into your work day. Before you know it, the sun’s going down, you’ve had your head buried in your computer screen for eight hours and you’ve forgotten about lunch. Too much work coupled with not moving from your work station all day can have serious effects on your mental and physical health.
Having an office pet — either your own or someone else’s — can help you unplug during the day. Taking Rex for stroll in the park or even just down the street, will help to clear your mind and keep you focussed. Plus, unless you have a physically active job, a little more exercise in the working day is always a good thing!
Pets at work help with motivation and productivity
More and more businesses are realising the health, productivity and social benefits of having pets at work. Google, Etsy and Amazon are among the more famous companies that actively encourage their employees to bring pets — specifically, dogs — into the workplace.
According to research, petting a dog for just 15 minutes a day releases positive hormones and significantly reduces cortisol levels. And, with only 62% of us feeling fully engaged at work, taking your dog to the office is a brilliant way to boost your motivation.
Office pets reduce anxiety and work-related stress
By their very nature, dogs are highly social creatures. Aside from primates, dogs are among the only species that will seek out eye contact and run to their human when they’re excited or scared. Cats, too, share a bond with their human companions. Both cats and dogs will approach their human for licks and cuddles if they sense we’re upset, fearful or feeling low. This sense of companionship alone can help you to manage excessive levels of work-related stress.
Animals are also ice-breakers. “Having a dog-friendly workplace encourages interaction and socialisation between employees who may not have otherwise crossed paths,” said Paul Steadman, Head of HR at Nestle UK, in an interview with smallbusiness.co.uk.
When you have office pets, communication and interaction among colleagues can flourish. Couple this with the mood-lifting health benefits of getting up from your chair and talking the office dog for a walk, or feeding the fish, and suddenly everyone in the office is feeling better.
Of course, taking your pet to work means being accountable for its safety and wellbeing every minute of the day, as well as that of your co-workers.
Forcing your ‘friendly’ dog onto a colleague who isn’t a dog fan, is not going to win you a new work friend. And, forgetting to take your furry pals to the toilet on a regular basis (or not clearing up after them) will probably get your beloved pet banned from the office quite quickly — causing you more work-related stress!
However, if you run a small business that can cater for an office pet, or if you work from home on a regular basis, then perhaps it’s time to consider introducing a pet-friendly policy.
Over to you. Do you think office pets are a good thing? We’d love to know about your experiences. Share in the comments below.