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Rejoice, fellow pupper-enthusiasts, it isn’t just you who thinks getting an office dog would be an awesome idea; it turns out science might be on your side.
Stress, anxiety and depression accounts for 44% of the UK’s work-related illness, according to a 2018 government report. Yet studies show that contact with an animal can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of cortisol, a stress hormone.
Could the presence of a canine companion alleviate some of the tension in the office, and therefore reduce staff burnout and absence?
A study into this theory was led by – and I’m not making this up – Randolph Barker, then-professor of management in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business. Barker reportedly examined a company made up of 550 employees, who were encouraged to bring in their dogs from home, resulting in 20 or 30 dogs taking temporary residence in their North Carolina offices.
Lo and behold, according to Barker:
“The differences in perceived stress between days the dog was present and absent were significant. The employees as a whole had higher job satisfaction than industry norms.”
Previous research has found that patients with dogs could keep their blood pressure lower during times of mental stress than patients taking medication instead. Plus, exercise is said to stimulate creative thinking, so nipping out for walkies can also be good for a worker’s brain and create an opportunity for fresh ideas.
Ecko – a dachshund-labrador cross, is a popular member of the team at Trendy Golf, an online high-end golf and sport clothing store based in Emsworth.
“He’s great for stress,” Hannah Kenyon, Image Creative Executive told us.
“If someone’s having a bad day, he knows and will give you a cuddle. He’s a good guard dog too, letting you know when the deliveries or random people walk in!”
Perhaps as a result of such positive public attitudes, dogs are becoming welcome in their humans’ offices in massive organisations such as Amazon and Google. The latter even specify in their Code of Conduct:
“Google’s affection for our canine friends is an integral facet of our corporate culture. We like cats, but we’re a dog company, so as a general rule we feel cats visiting our offices would be fairly stressed out.”
It’s not just your staff members who could lap up the benefits of a dog in the office. A friendly, fuzzy face on your website, social media or in the window could attract the attention of potential customers and secure repeated interest – even if said interest is in a quick belly-rub rather than in your product or service.
Companies have used dogs as bait for customers for years, even when the business/dog link is tenuous at best. Just think about it: what on earth do dogs have to do with toilet tissue (Andrex), car insurance (Churchill), or paint (Dulux)? Even Thinkbox, the marketing body for the main UK commercial TV broadcasters, opted to use ‘Harvey’ the Jack-Russell terrier for a very popular ad campaign in recent years.
It’s easy to see why. In 2018, dogs were deemed the nation’s favourite pet in a study by CompareCover. Business trends come and go, but us Brits love those adorable little scamps and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.
“The directors got her at the start of 2014 because they wanted a dog, not because of it being a cynical cute marketing ploy!”, Jhon Cosgrove, Social Media Manager told us.
“Naturally we just took lots of pics of her and shared them online. We gave her her own contests and we adopted the philosophy that she’s actually the boss. Now we have people coming in all the time and loads of people want to have pics with her and meet her.”
If you have potential clients or customers popping in who happen to have small children with them, it’s also an incentive for a longer, less distracted conversation, as the pooch can keep the little ones entertained whilst you talk business. It may even get to the point where your dog is more popular than you are.
“Clients love Walnut, and when first time clients arrive at the office, he is the first person they want to see” said Luke Taylor of Pixeldot, a design team based in Lewes.
“He obliges by greeting them at the door. Whenever he isn’t in the office and a client arrives, they always say how disappointed they are not to see him.”
Despite the glowing advantages, there are caveats. The aforementioned (and still amusingly named) Randolph Barker warned that whilst our furry friends should be welcomed into the office, conditions apply:
“It is important to have policies in place to ensure only friendly, clean and well-behaved pets are present in the workplace.”
He’s right. Important factors to consider would be the potential for the dog regularly disrupting your workplace by making a mess, or a bad smell – or worse – a bad smelling mess. It also might get a tad awkward when an important client swings by to talk shop and Rex takes a fancy to their leg.
There are, of course, those utter monsters who don’t like dogs (or poor souls who might be allergic) to take into account. Brighton based Digital Marketers WeAreAllConnected, who share an office with Bruce, an Australian terrier, can relate. Editorial Consultant Ashley Sheets told us:
“There’s no way to know if a client actually likes dogs, or if they’re just being polite when they come in the door and see a wagging tail! Some are more squeamish than others, but don’t want to say anything”
To avoid any unwelcome surprises, it’s also important to remember to give your clients a fair warning before they visit, as Ashley recalls:
“One time Bruce was sat underneath our big meeting table – a client didn’t know he was there, and mid-meeting he gave their leg a friendly lick. The client very literally jumped out of her chair! I did feel weirdly bad about that.”
If you take all this into consideration and still think an office dog is right for your business, you may end up with a workforce and a pack of customers as happy as this chappy.