Is my Hamster enough? How a pet in the office improves wellbeing
Wellness benefits of having pets in the office
I saw a US report the other day championing the benefits of having dogs at university campuses. In the US, therapy dogs are used in more than 1,000 universities and colleges. The research suggests that spending time with the dogs can reduce the negative impacts of stress.
This got me thinking. As someone who works from home 90% of the time, is owning a pet hamster enough? Or should I get a dog? Here’s what I found out.
How can a dog improve my wellbeing?
The UK is certainly a nation of dog lovers; with 26% of us owning one. Taking your dog to your place of work is still a fairly new concept. Unless you’re a farmer in which case you’re probably wondering what all the fuss is about.
Should more desk-based businesses consider opening the doors to our canine friends though? Would I benefit from having a dog at home with me?
Having a dog in the office has been shown to:
- Improve collaboration – People who may not normally interact begin talking because they are both dog owners. Before you know it, they’re working more closely and the business is benefiting from it.
- Increase exercise levels – It’s a fact. Dogs need to be walked. Some a little, some a lot, but every day. They also need to go to the toilet. That means employees will need to take the dog out for a short walk once or twice a day. Getting fresh air each day is a known contributor to improving your mental health, so it seems like a real positive. For me, the task of walking the dog would fall to me. But, if you’re in an office, even those people who don’t own their own dog could be asking to take Rex for a walk once in a while.
- Reduces stress – Studies have shown that stroking a dog releases increased levels of oxytocin, a hormone which reduces stress levels. It can also cut the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. Having to look after a dog while you’re at work forces you to take more breaks from your screen, which is probably a good thing.
- Improve staff retention – Being a dog friendly office can also help your business to attract and retain top talent. It will mean they can save money on doggy day care and won’t have to run home at lunchtime to check up on their dog.
How to implement a dog friendly workplace..
Despite all the good press dogs are getting right now, some employees won’t be pleased if you implement a dog friendly office. What about people with allergies or those with a fear of dogs, for example?
Is it unhygienic and how would your clients react? Before agreeing to have dogs in the office, you should create a dogs at work agreement which defines the barriers.
Within your dog policy, you could include:
- Provisions for a dog-proof office
- A suitable place for owners to dispose of dog poo!
- Requests for dog bedding to be changed once a week
- Dog-free zones within the office
- Guidelines around dismissal of a dog if it bites an employee, another dog or barks constantly, and
- A limit to just one dog per employee.
If you don’t like dogs or are allergic to them, think twice about working at Amazon’s US Headquarters. They have a staggering 1,000 dogs registered to come to work with their owners. That’s a lot of dogs.
But will a hamster do?
I like dogs, but I don’t love them. Could I get the same benefits with a cat or a hamster? According to behavioural psychologist Lotte Spijkerman, dogs and cats have roughly the same psychological effect on people.
They reduce stress and increase productivity, mainly because they interact with you of their own accord and when they pop over to your work station, it’s a good reminder that you might need to take a break.
She says that the effect is far less pronounced with a hamster and other animals though.
So, it looks like I need to get a dog or a cat if I’m going to reduce my stress levels and create companionship. I think I’ll probably stick to the hamster for now but I’m certainly more open to having a dog or cat now I know how good they can be for us.
Don’t go barking up the wrong tree
If accounting isn’t your thing, don’t worry the pet friendly team at THP can look after it for you. It leaves you free to focus on growing your business, spending time with your clients or walking your dog!