New Study Shows Dogs Reduce Stress in the Workplace

Investigators from the schools of Business, Medicine, and Nursing at Virginia Commonwealth University released a preliminary study of dogs in the workplace in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management. They claim it is the “first quantitative exploratory study of the effects of pet dogs in the workplace”. Their results indicate that bringing dogs to work may lower stress and increase employee satisfaction for those who bring their dogs to work, as compared with employees who either did not bring their dog to work or who did not own a pet.

Newspapers and magazines in the U.S. and elsewhere have reported the story. The full preliminary study is available online via Emerald Group Publishing Ltd:

The study measured the impact of a pet’s presence on “stress and organizational perceptions” among three groups of employees: those who brought their dogs to work, those who own dogs by did not bring them to work, and employees without pets. Replacements, Ltd., a service-manufacturing-retail company in Greensboro, NC with 550 employees was the site. It has permitted employees to bring their dogs to work for over 15 years, researchers note.

The findings regarding perceived stress in the workplace seem to correlate with other mounting evidence that supports the health benefits of human-animal interaction. During the workday, stress declined in people who brought their dogs to the office (“DOG” group). Stress increased for the two groups who did not bring a canine companion to work (“NODOG” and “NOPET” groups).

The “NODOG” group had significantly higher stress than the “DOG” group by the close of business. On days during the study when the “DOG” group did not bring their dogs to work, “owners’ stress increased throughout the day, mirroring the pattern of the NODOG group”.

In administering the Pet Attitude Scale (PAS), an assessment tool that measures general attitudes toward animals, workers’ overall feelings about animals in the workplace were also measured. Equal numbers of employees perceived dogs’ presence as beneficial or harmful to their productivity.

The authors suggest that one practical application of their study might be to utilize dogs “as a low-cost, wellness intervention” in both large corporations and small-shop businesses. However, consideration is also given to the workaday canine in their conclusion. Future research, they continue, could focus on the welfare of dogs within the work setting in terms of positive or negative responses to difference stimuli in that specific environment.

NCRC expects that effective follow-up to the findings presented in this preliminary study will require the expertise of behaviorists and ethologists in order to account for the interests and welfare of the dogs, as well as the concerns of non-dog owning employees.

[Source: Randolph T. Barker, Janet S. Knisley, Sandra B. Barker, Rachel K. Cobb, Christine M. Schubert (2012), “Preliminary investigation of employee’s dog presence on stress and organizational perceptions”, published in The International Journal of Workplace Health Management, Vol 5 Iss: 1 pp. 15-30.]

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