Can Pets in the Workplace Boost Happiness?

What do companies like Amazon, Google and Ben & Jerry’s have in common? They’re pet friendly workplaces that allow employees to take their pets, usually dogs, to work.

But can pets in the workplace really boost happiness? Research has shown that having pets in the workplace not only reduces stress, but can boost employee engagement, creativity, well-being and happiness. 

Global pet food giant, Purina has launched its Pets at Work Programme which aims to encourage 200 companies across Europe to become pet friendly. They report that to date, its own offices across 22 countries have established a Pets at Work Programme and that more than 80 companies across Europe have been supported to become pet friendly. 

From Barcelona to Milan and Paris to Berlin, companies like Wework, Salesforce and AirBnB have pets at work policies which allow employees to bring their pets to work.Various studies (see below) have uncovered a myriad of benefits to employees and to employers making pet friendly workplaces increasingly popular. Benefits to employees Employees benefit greatly from having pets in the workplace including:

  • Increased job satisfaction

  • Reduced stress

  • More engaged in their work

  • Improved creativity

  • Greater work-life balance

  • Improved work relationships

  • Increased sense of well-being

  • Feel supported by their employer

  • Financial gain from not having to pay for pet sitting/dog walking services

  • Feel less guilty by not having to leave pets home alone

  • Eliminates the worry of rushing home to feed and care for pets

Benefits to employers

Employers also benefit from the introduction of pets in the workplace including:

  • Increased productivity

  • Boosted staff morale

  • Increased levels of well-being

  • Encouragement of positive social interactions

  • Improved company image

  • Ability to attract top talent seeking pet friendly workplaces

Aside from the many benefits to employees and employers, pets also benefit from pet-friendly workplaces. While there appears to be little research into pets’ thoughts and feelings on spending time in the workplace with their owners, it could be assumed that they would also benefit from pet friendly workplaces. Pets that accompany their owners to work are likely to experience less boredom, stress and anxiety resulting in boosted levels of happiness and well-being. Not every pet is suited for the office however, and employees need to consider if their pet would fit in at their workplace. 

Potential pitfalls

While having pets in the workplace sounds like a great idea, it’s important consider potential pitfalls such as:

  • Pets in the workplace can pose a health and safety risk by becoming a trip hazard or triggering allergies in co-workers or visitors to the office.

  • Pets can cause damage to the office by chewing soft furnishings or cables or having toilet accidents which could damage carpets or flooring.

  • A pet that bites a co-worker or visitor to the office can open the potential for legal action against the owner and the company along with physical harm to the individual.

  • Pets in the workplace can be a distraction which can disrupt workflow.

  • Getting into fights with other pets can be dangerous for pets and humans, cause disruption and have the potential to damage relationships.

  • Pets at work policies require resources to draft, implement and keep up to date. Monitoring things like vaccinations and pet health and fitness for the work environment can place a burden on HR staff.

Summary

If you take into consideration all the research and workplace surveys, it’s safe to stay the jury’s still out on whether pets in the workplace definitively boosts happiness for everyone in that workplace. The reasons for this are that not everyone is a dog (or other pet) person, pets in the workplace can represent a health and safety risk and can be too much of a distraction. On the other hand, if the focus of a business or organisation is pets or dogs in particular, including them in the workplace can be less of a challenge.  

Research:

Preliminary investigation of employee’s dog presence on stress and organizational perceptions

Pets at Work Benchmark Study

Banfield Pet Hospital Pet-Friendly Workplace PAWrometer study

Pets in the Workplace: The Impact of Pet-Friendly Policies on Employee Stress and the Mediating Role of Perceived Organizational Support

Lisa LaRue, the The Career Happiness Coach, is a registered Career Coach with more than 20 years’ experience helping people plan, manage and find happiness in their careers.

Lisa LaRue is The Career Happiness Coach. She is a registered career development professional with over 20 years’ experience helping people plan, manage and find happiness in their careers.

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