HAVING pets in the workplace is highly beneficial for employers and employees alike. Companies such as Amazon have even allowed pets in the workplace to improve their employees’ work-life balance. At their Seattle headquarters, employees share their workspace with as many as 7,000 dogs (!).
Both employers and employees have stated that it helps them pass long work hours happily, and pets remind them to take necessary breaks.
‘Office pets’ are animals that live in the workplace, or a personal pet of the employer or employee that is brought to the office daily.
Among the benefits of having an office pet:
1. Reduced stress
Pets are known to provide comic relief and spread cheer among employees, so having a pet in the office can help to decrease stress in the workplace.
A study carried out by Deakin University conducted research into the effect of nature and living things in the workspace. The results found that contact with nature provides an effective way to prevent mental illness.
Petting a cat or dog, or even looking at a fish swimming for just ten minutes can have calming effects, reduce blood pressure, lower stress and make employees more friendly.
When cuddling or stroking a furry friend, our bodies release oxytocin, which is a feel-good hormone and reduces the stress hormone, cortisol.
A reduction of stress among employees means fewer stress-related illnesses and the medical costs that accompany them.
2. Increased teamwork and morale
A study at Central Michigan University found that in a group setting where a furry friend is present, teammates are more communicative, comfortable with each other, cooperate better and trust each other more.
Cute pets have a way of lightening the mood in any situation and making people smile, which can therefore increase morale in the workplace.
Other than that, the presence of a pet in the workplace can act as an icebreaker, encouraging more interaction among employees and enhancing teamwork.
Having better communication leads to more trust, which is a key component in a successful work environment.
3. Improved productivity
By having office pets, employees are more likely to take regular breaks to play with the pet. While it might seem counterproductive and a distraction, taking regular breaks is necessary for people to perform optimally.
Senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management, Robert Pozen, recommends taking a 15-minute break every 75 to 90 minutes of work.
The reason behind the timing is because the human brain works on two modes, and taking frequent working breaks helps it to understand and retain information better.
Studies have also shown that spending too much time on one project can actually decrease productivity and cause unnecessary stress.
Therefore, when people take short breaks, they come back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the project again, as having mental breaks prevents overworking and exhaustion.
4. Increased employee retention and decreased absences
If a company has more work policies that create a more welcoming and relaxed work environment, employees are less likely to quit.
Having a healthy and fun work environment translates into loyalty and better talent retention numbers.
The less stressed a person is in their job role, the less likely they are to be absent. Given that office pets decrease stress, employers create a better working experience and employees are more likely to enjoy their work.
Tips for having office pets
Although having office pets is beneficial, proper steps should be taken by employers to ensure a healthy environment for both office pets and employees.
1. Employers need to make sure the hygiene of office pets is well-maintained. Since employees have to be healthy at work to avoid spreading sickness, the office pet should be as well. Pets should be well-groomed, cleaned, as well as free of contagions and fleas or ticks.
2. Office pets should be trained if needed. Although taking breaks to cuddle with pets is beneficial, office pets should not be destructive or overly distracting. Having a well-trained pet in the office will allow the office pet to work well with everyone and create a better work environment.
3. All employees should be informed of the office pets and there should be a pet-specified area. Since not everyone might like pets and some might be allergic to pets, having the consent of all employees about having an office pet is important so that employees feel respected and agree with the decision unanimously to prevent any unforeseen issues.