Workplaces That Don’t Allow Dogs Could Be Barking Up The Wrong Tree

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June 2017

Workplaces that don’t allow dogs could be barking up the wrong tree


New study suggests appropriate ‘bring your dog to work’ policies could capitalise on the positives whilst overcoming the negatives

There is growing evidence that taking your pet to the office can reduce stress and increase your productivity. Despite these gains, some employees remain unconvinced. Opponents cite fear of dogs, health and safety and allergies as potential issues.

A new University of Lincoln study conducted in collaboration with WALTHAM suggests these concerns may not be experienced in practice. Carefully designed policies may alleviate potential worries and allow employees to capitalise on the benefits.  The research provides a source of information to help employers navigate the key stages of developing their own successful policy.

Surveying over 700 office based individuals from countries around the globe the study explored the perceived pros and cons of office dogs.  Many people expressed positive perceptions of dogs in the workplace; stress reducing effects and increased social interactions where just two. One respondent stated “…most say our dogs are stress relievers - they come by and pet or play with the dogs throughout the day”. Concerns likely to be standing in the way of more widespread acceptance focused on environment suitability and health and safety. The researchers found that these concerns didn’t translate into practice, and could be alleviated by appropriate policies.

“Many full time workers struggle with feelings of guilt when faced with leaving their dog home alone. Being able to bring them to the office is a great way for increasing the time pet and owner can spend together each day. Indeed, it can also deliver mental and physical benefits to the work place. These gains are not just experienced by the owners, but also their non-dog owning colleagues” says Prof. Daniel Mills, senior investigator on the study. “In settings where dogs are allowed at work it often appears to be a casual agreement. For the potential benefits to be experienced more widely, those that do allow the practice should communicate how the perceived problems can be overcome”.

“We suggest that allowing dogs into offices could bring valuable benefits to employee well-being and performance, with the potential to improve the productivity and profitability of many businesses” says Sandra McCune, WALTHAM Human-Animal Interaction Scientific Leader. “Business managers should work with animal behaviourists, vets and health and occupational psychologists to develop effective ‘bring your dog to work’ policies”.

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Pets in the Office Case Study: Mars Petcare UK National Office

Mars Petcare UK have enjoyed having dogs in their offices for almost a decade. To help ensure a harmonious working environment the UK national office site near Melton Mowbray introduced an official workplace policy back in 2008. Its aims are to ensure owners take full responsibility for their dog and to safeguard high health and safety standards for people and pets. A pet health and behaviour check is carried out prior to an owner bringing their dog into work for the first time to make sure the pet will be happy and healthy in the office.

Mars Petcare respect the fact that not everyone is comfortable around dogs and some have allergies. As such, owners are asked to consult their colleagues before bringing their dog into work. If there’s an issue, they can choose not to bother, or temporarily relocate their desk. There are further options for those wanting to minimise contact. Handy desk signage is used to let others know that an employee has their dog with them, and there are designated dog free meeting areas.

Last year, the office dogs were invited to take part in, a ‘Dog Academy’. Run by British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers’ and Mars Associate Andrew Winfrow, it focussed on how to be a good office companion by teaching (and reminding!) them of the basics of obedience training to build confidence in the dogs and their owners.
The welfare needs of office dogs are paramount to Mars Petcare. Dedicated facilities include pet supply cupboard including spare water bowls and a two acre enclosed field for exercising and play.

“Pets are at the heart of everything we do, which is why all of our UK Petcare offices are pet friendly. We believe that having dogs in the workplace benefits both pets and people” says Philippa Jackson, HR Director for Mars Petcare UK. “Having a workable policy for dogs in the office ensures that we can help our Associates to be responsible pet owners and maximise the benefits that come from having dogs in the office”.

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