The reality is, the benefits of office pets extend much further than most people think. Sure, it might seem obvious that office pets boost morale – the true surprise is how much they can benefit a business’ bottom line.
Allowing animals in the office lowers stress, increases well-being, and improves things like collaboration and productivity.
Having trouble convincing your CEO that Fido should join you at the next board meeting? Here are 9 ways office pets will benefit your business.
1. Increased Collaboration
We can all probably imagine that having smiling, slobbering pet faces around might brighten your day. But what’s not as obvious is how the mere presence of pets in the office can actually impact the quality of our work.
Studies conducted at Central Michigan University, for instance, found that the presence of a dog in the office improves collaboration.
In one experiment, researchers put together 12 groups of four and tasked each with developing a 15-second advertisement for a made up product. While everyone was asked to throw out ideas, ultimately only one idea could win the day – meaning that collaboration would be key to success.
The twist? Some of the groups had a dog in their midst, while others did not.
After the exercise, questionnaires revealed that those groups with a dog on their side gave higher marks to their teammates when it came to trust, team cohesion, and intimacy, compared to teams without a dog.
The takeaway here was that the presence of an office dog has a measurable impact on how we perceive our peers at work, resulting in greater camaraderie and better collaboration.
In another study, the research team again broke participants into groups of four, and subjected them to a “prisoner’s dilemma” scenario.
They were told ahead of time that they were each charged with a crime, and would be given more lenient sentences if they snitched on their teammates – unless of course their entire group claimed innocence.
For groups where a dog was present, participants were 30% less likely to inform on each other, which points to a dog’s ability to promote trust among colleagues, just by being in the room.
2. Higher Productivity
If there’s one thing the powers that be understand it’s the bottom line. If you’re trying to convince your boss that office pets are worth considering, make sure you share the fact that they’re likely to make your team more productive.
One reason is that having a pet at work forces you to take short breaks throughout the day, which improves focus and limits distraction.
Studies show that our brains can only focus at a high level for a maximum of about 50 minutes. To keep working at peak performance, it’s vital that we take intermittent breaks throughout the day.
In this way, your pet’s tendency to need to go out for walks and pee breaks will actually make you more dialed-in at work. A 2016 study conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital found that 67% of employees who took pets to work agreed that their pet made them more productive.
SnackNation Member Success Manager Lexi Vermillion has a different theory why her dog Toby makes her better at her job – a greater sense of responsibility.
“I feel like I have a sense of responsibility,” she explained. “Everyday, [Toby] gets my day going. And then when I’m in the office, he helps me stay focused and just sits in my lap while I’m doing work, and keeps me on track.”
Dogs have even been known to help close deals. Jemma Pascoe, an office manager at London literary agency Peters Fraser and Dunlop, told the Guardian that her toy poodle Marlowe actually comes in handy during negotiations.
She explained: “The foreign rights director will hold Marlowe to the camera and say ‘Marlowe doesn’t like that price’, then pause a beat – and the recipient tends to up the offer.”
Likewise, SnackNation Sales Development Rep Kurtis Michela told us that his pal Kogi has helped him boost his numbers. At least once a month, Kogi will “hop on [a] video call, and he’s always good for a random email.
If he starts barking in the background, that’s always helpful, because then I can talk about how we’re a dog friendly office, and people usually like that.”
3. Reduced Stress
Pets are known stress relievers. Multiple studies have demonstrate that owning a pet lowers blood pressure and reduces stress hormones like cortisol (which is linked to depression and anxiety), while increasing oxytocin, a feel-good brain chemical that is linked to happiness.
Because of this, pet owners who suffer a heart attack have a better survival rate.
And it’s not just long term contact with pets that matters. A study conducted at Virginia Commonwealth University found that even brief exposure to pets before a major medical procedure reduced fear by 37%.
While the general health benefits of pet ownership are well established, the impact at the workplace was less understood until more recently.
In 2012, VCU researchers found that pets in the workplace reduce stress, which in turn stunts absenteeism, boosts morale, and limits the potential for burnout. Individuals who work alone also reported feeling less lonely. In the Banfield study, 86% of employees found that their office pet helped reduce stress.
4. Easier Recruiting & Higher Retention
A pet-friendly office is like a dog whistle for Millennials.
It tells them that creating a fun, slightly more relaxed environment is a priority. It sends a signal to potential new hires that yours is a progressive workplace, where the “work/life balance” paradigm has been replace with “work-life integration.”
The concept is simple – since most working adults spend more time at work than at home, work-life integration means that the workplace becomes more like a home, with amenities like food, exercise space, and yes, pets. It also implies that individuals are free to be their authetnic selves at work.
This idea of integration is particularly important for Millennials, who prefer not to have to adopt a “work persona” at the office.
A Forbes story also pointed out that pet-friendly office
“It brings everything together for me. I look at this company as a family, she is obviously a big part of my family, so bringing that all in house is pretty awesome.”
In the Banfield Pet Hospital study, 82% of employees said that a pro-office pet policy inspired greater loyalty to their company, which results in longer employee tenures.
5. Better Communication
Internal communication is a challenge for most companies, especially as businesses scale and teams grow. Employees get trapped in their own bubbles, interacting mostly with members of their own team.
The fact that most of our communication is done over email rather than face to face only exacerbates the problem. Interdepartmental communication becomes harder, information becomes siloed, and teams miss out on the opportunity for information sharing and serendipitous encounters.
In a Guardian piece on the subject, workers in one of Nestle’s UK offices found that office pets gave people a reason to come talk to one another.
One employee noted, “People will stop you in the corridors to stroke your dog so you start talking to someone in a different part of the company who you’d never normally have spoken to, or have only encountered over email.”
A colleague and fellow pet owner concurred: “People will ask to come and see him, and find out where you sit. You end up getting to know so many people in different parts of the business, which can be useful.”
6. Improved Morale
It’s not just pet owners who enjoy the benefits of bringing their four-legged friends into the office.
The VCU study found that job satisfaction increased for all employees who came in contact with office pets. Likewise, 7 out of 10 participants in the Banfield Pet Hospital study stated that “pets at work make a positive impact on office dynamics and workplace morale.”
Kurtis Michela explains Kogi’s effect on the SnackNation team:
“The best part about bringing him in is seeing how happy he makes everybody else, which then cheers me up,” he explains. “[It’s] definitely a big morale booster in the office…. Since we’re providing snacks, [and are all about] providing a good office experience here, it’s definitely a good way to live the message.”
Layla’s owner, Mallorie Sheldahl agrees: “It’s just awesome having a little companion during the day. She’s definitely a morale booster.”
7. It’s Good for the Pets Too
Part of the reason that office pets lower stress for pet owners is that doing so alleviates a sense of guilt for leaving your pet at home. 86% of respondents in the Banfield Pet Hospital study agreed that bringing their pets to the office reduced guilt about abandoning their pets during the day.