Hanging out with man’s best friend is a huge part of our daily routine, and for many families a dog or cat is like another child. But as much as we pamper our furry friends, we can’t take them everywhere with us. And when it comes to those 8 hours (or more) we spend on the clock, it seems like our family pets are just never welcome to spend time with us while we are at work.
But not all professions believe in working without their trusted animal friends. For centuries, cats have been prowling breweries and farms to kill rats and mice. K9 units couldn’t function without their canines, of course, and many hospitals and nursing homes have on-staff dogs or cats to comfort patients. Even some bookstores have cats prowling the stacks.
And increasingly, “regular” offices are encouraging pets to become a part of the work day. But are animals in the office a source of distraction, or a legitimate tool for increasing productivity?
If anyone in your office suffers from allergies, bringing a pet to the office would be inconsiderate, even if you are at the top of the food chain. But respiratory conditions aside, there are plenty of other problems with having an animal in the workplace that could severely impact your productivity.
For one thing, an ill-behaved pet can cause havoc in all kinds of ways, from “accidents” to jumping up on your desk and knocking over your computer or stacks of papers. An animal that is too energetic should not be constrained to an office environment, for the sanity of you, your co-workers, and the pet itself.
Sick pets should stay at home; no one wants to walk into your cube and see a pet dragging its back end across the floor. And it should be obvious that animals with aggression problems should not be in an office….unless you want to get sued.
Therapy animals or service animals, on the other hand, should always be welcome in an office setting.
By the Numbers
According to one study conducted by Christopher Honts and his colleagues at Central Michigan University, dogs in the office can help to boost productivity.
And according to a survey conducted by the American Pet Products Manufacturers, 17 percent of Americans work at pet-friendly companies and 23 percent believe pets should be allowed in the workplace. The survey also found that 70 million Americans believe having pets in the workplace reduces stress, and 46 million believe having pets in the workplace creates a more productive work environment.
Since 1996, people have been celebrating Take Your Dog to Work Day every June, with over 10,000 companies participating in the United States. The next Take Your Dog to Work Day is June 24th, so start buttering up your boss now to get them to take part.
In Portland, Oregon, the local opera company has a resident cat named Nerissa. The Opera’s general director Christopher Mattaliano also allows dogs at work.
“I feel a happy staff is a productive staff,” says Mattaliano.
“During stressful times here, I get people coming in from a different floor just to connect with [my pet]” adds Noelle Guest, the director’s executive assistant.
Elsewhere in the country, Linda Goldstein Dunay, president of a marketing and public relations firm, is also a fan of pets in the workplace.
“From the beginning, I wanted my company to feel like a community,” she says. “I find that having dogs around, and allowing people to have their pets with them, is a big morale-booster.”
Murray Low, director of The Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center at Columbia Business School, adds that allowing employees to bring pets to work can be an inexpensive way to bolster productivity and reduce stress. “If the pet’s at work, it’s not as difficult for the employee to stay till 10 at night.”