Stressed At The Office? Bring Your Dog To Work

Man's best friend could also be his best co-worker, going by the results of a study by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University in the US. 76 employees at a "service-manufacturing-retail company" were split into three groups — DOG (those who brought their dogs into work), NODOG (those who owned dogs but left them at home) and NOPET (those with no pets at all).

Over the course of the week, the study found that while physiological stress measurements did not differ dramatically, subjects in the DOG group did report reduced stress levels.

The research paper can be in its entirety on Emerald. Ignoring the somewhat unfortunate surnames of two of the researchers, "Barker" (at least for this particular study), there are a couple of interesting takeaways for human-dog interactions in the workplace. From the paper:

Combined groups scored significantly higher on multiple job satisfaction subscales than the reference norm group for these scales. No significant differences were found between the groups on physiological stress or perceived organisational support.

Although perceived stress was similar at baseline; over the course of the day, stress declined for the DOG group with their dogs present and increased for the NODOG and NOPET groups. The NODOG group had significantly higher stress than the DOG group by the end of the day.

A significant difference was found in the stress patterns for the DOG group on days their dogs were present and absent. On dog absent days, owners' stress increased throughout the day, mirroring the pattern of the NODOG group.

Physiological stress was gauged by measuring saliva cortisol levels — one of the hormones (along with adrenaline) connected to increased stress, according to the Mayo Clinic. These levels were roughly the same among all three groups, though the NOPET group was higher on average.

For self-reported stress, the results were a bit different:

In general, the DOG group had the lowest VAS [self-reported stress] scores, the NOPET the next highest and the NODOG group had the highest VAS scores. Whereas there were no significant differences in mean VAS scores throughout the day for the DOG group or the NOPET group, there was a significant increase in VAS over the course of the day for the NODOG group ... Although VAS scores were similar at baseline ... over the course of the day, VAS scores rose throughout the days when the dog was not present as compared to days when the dog was present.

It's strange that physically, the researchers couldn't find any differences, but psychologically there was a positive statistical result. Even if the hormones aren't there to justify the presence of pets at work, state-of-mind is a powerful thing — allowing employees to bring their shaggier loved ones in every once in a while might not be a bad idea.

On a sad note, one of the subject's dogs died during the study, however, she withdrew as a result and I'm speculating her results were not included.

Image: Kiwi NZ.

Preliminary investigation of employee's dog presence on stress and organisational perceptions [Emerald via iTWire]


    not a smart idea if you work in the hospitality industry

    Sure, if you fool around for half a day with an animal you'll be less stressed.

    Is it ethical to subject those poor animals to those high levels of stress in the workplace?!

    I have an in-law working and living in the Netherlands at the moment - it's permitted for one of his colleagues to bring her two puppies in to work with her every day at their office.
    I think it's like an actual employee right or something for Dutch people.

    Not much work would be done with bringing a dog to work, the dog would require interaction or it might become one of those ever so familiar faces in the office where you smile past as your making coffee

    Bringing a dog to work isn't actually that uncommon in the rest of the world. It's basically unthinkable in Aus, but Google's Dog Policy is quite well known. There are a reasonable number of other larger companies with similar policies.

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