Will Allowing Dogs at Work Benefit Your Company?

Dogs at work: Best employee perk ever?
February 22, 2013 Slobbering, barking and scratching notwithstanding, the trend of welcoming dogs into the workplace is growing. Best behavior is required, of course. And I mean the people.

As founder and CEO of PrintingForLess.com, I am constantly looking for ways to facilitate increased production through employee satisfaction. Years ago, I began bringing my dog to work. This evolved into one of the best perks our company offers: a bring-your-dog-to-work policy.  

Research published by Virginia Commonwealth University indicates a measureable reduction in stress at companies where dogs are permitted. We have certainly experienced this phenomenon firsthand over the past 17 years. When good policies are implemented, companies that allow dogs in the workplace notice several benefits:

1. Productivity increases (believe it or not). A large majority of employees, both at my company and at large, are required to sit for lengthy periods of time. One study on new software that prompts users to take periodic breaks from their computer found that short breaks actually improve both accuracy and overall output. Dogs are better than software—they're an even more organic reminder to get up and take short breaks, which will improve your employees' overall morale and productivity.

2. Pets stimulate creativity.  Having dogs around establishes a company atmosphere that is outside of the box, setting the pace for innovation and creative thinking. Providing natural pauses in workflow, well behaved dogs generate short, productive “brain breaks.” Recent research indicates that people who interact with pets have lower depression rates and elevated levels of serotonin. We see this phenomenon at PFL, as dogs infuse vibrant energy into the workplace.

Having your dog at work is one of the perks of being President of the United States. Barak Obama and Bo (Photo: via whitehouse/flickr)

3. Provide a bonding mechanism. Building camaraderie is an inherent advantage of having pets to gather around. The positive vibe established by a dog-friendly workplace facilitates conversations among co-workers too.

4. Increase health, decrease employee sick days. Numerous studies—as highlighted on WebMD—have shown that having a pet is a good investment for your health. Stress depresses immunity. The American Humane Association reports that dogs are proven to have a therapeutic influence, lowering cortisol levels in the body.

5. Naturally alleviate stress. On days when work gets tough, dogs provide unconditional acceptance and comfort. At our company, we notice that this improves employee focus and job satisfaction. 

Forward thinking companies that have dog-at-work policies include, Ben and Jerry’s, Amazon, and my company,  PrintingForLess.com. Every company that has been successful in “going to the dogs” has a policy to make it happen. So what's included in a dog policy? At our company, we don't allow dogs that display aggressive behavior or are in any way disruptive to morale or productivity; that aren't potty trained; that have fleas or contagious conditions; or that bark loudly and repetitively. Owners are responsible for cleaning up after dog messes both inside and outside of the building. Dogs aren't allowed in our manufacturing area or in child care, and cats aren't allowed at all.

Even meeting all these requirements, employees must sign a waiver and receive management approval before being allowed to bring a dog into the office. And of course, dog owners should recognize that not all employees or visitors like having dogs in the office, and in some cases cannot physically be in close proximity to certain animals (e.g., due to allergies).

Both canines and humans can be trained to coexist in a workspace that nurtures productivity and creativity. The sooner you start running with the big dogs, the sooner you can start reaping the rewards.

OPEN Cardmember Andrew S. Field is the Founder and CEO of PrintingForLess.com, the nation’s first e-commerce commercial printing company.

Photo: iStockphoto