10 April 2012

Happy go lucky: Dogs at the workplace may reduce stress

Bring-your-dog-to-work day may not be such a bad idea after all, and may even be beneficial to your health.

According to a recent study from Virginia Commonwealth University, bringing dogs to work may provide relief from a stressful day, not only for the dog owner, but also for the other workers with whom the dog comes in contact.

The study, published in the March issue of the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, compared employees who brought their dogs to work, employees who did not bring their dogs to work and employees without pets in terms of stress, job satisfaction, organizational commitment and support.

Principal investigator Randolph T. Barker, Ph.D., who is also a professor of management at the VCU school of business, said the employees had a higher level of satisfaction in the workplace on the days the dogs were present compared to the days the dogs were absent.

Set in Greensboro, N.C., the study was based on the workdays of employees at Replacements, Ltd., a service-manufacturing-retail company, which employs approximately 500 people and has approximately 20-30 dogs on the premises every day.

The study was conducted over a week at the company and required employees to fill out surveys and take saliva tests. The saliva tests were used to measure stress hormone levels, which were not significantly different between the control groups in the morning, but did change as the day continued.

Based on the stress reports from the employees themselves, stress decreased for the workers who brought their furry friends to work and increased for non-pet owners and those who left their dogs at home. Barker also noticed workers collaborating and communicating in situations that would not have occurred had employees left their dogs at work. He said employees offered to take other workers’ dogs outside, which encouraged friendly exchanges among employees and enabled workers to take a break from the office for some exercise.

 From 2009 to 2010, 35.7 percent of Americans were obese according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, and one of the factors contributing to this startling statistic is the number of Americans trapped within their cubicles during the day. Getting up to walk your dog during a break is one way to break up a long day in the office.

In an article released on March 29 from Newswise, Barker said, “Pet presence may serve as a low-cost, wellness intervention readily available to many organizations.” Barker added that further research with larger sample sizes must be done to replicate the study’s initial findings.

As a dog owner, I can understand how having dogs in the workplace is beneficial to stress levels. Dogs provide an innocent happiness that cannot be created by any human. We would all be healthier and happier if we had the opportunity to walk our dogs outside of the office occasionally. Just make sure your dog is potty-trained before you bring them on as an assistant.

Samantha Wood | @bostonu14 | Blog
Boston, MA Samantha is a journalism student at Boston University who hopes to pursue a career in the health magazine field. She is interested in both nutrition and cooking, especially vegan cooking. She became a vegan while in college and has remained that way ever since. She created a blog to document her efforts and it has become a collection of vegan recipes, restaurants and nutrition information. Samantha hopes to develop her photography skills as well so she can take appetizing photos of all her recipes. She loves chocolate (the vegan kind of course) and dogs, as well as California, where she hopes to live someday.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/derekgavey