The Cats in the Office and the Silver Spoon
Author: Louise Grubb – Aug 2020
The professional working environment has changed considerably over the past few years. Sharp terms such as flexi-hours, working from home, hot-desking, and shared offices have entered our vocabulary as the companies keep up to date with the changing needs of their staff. As staff work longer hours, the payoff is quite often bringing some of their personal life into the office. Tech giants have transformed what offices look like with targets replacing working hours, table tennis replacing conferences, and in-office gyms replacing flip-charts. As the lines between work-life balance continue to blur, it was only a matter of time before professional pets joined in on the fun!
With 58% of US households owning at least one pet, this equates to a lot of animals being left at home, often unattended for long periods during the week. This does not benefit these animals as much like us, they require stimulus and socialising to stay healthy and happy. The benefits of having a pet are considerable (link), with The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative finding that pets are responsible for saving $11.7b in healthcare annually. The vast majority of that is due to less physician visits due to a myriad of benefits, while just walking your dog lowers obesity to the tune of $419million in annual healthcare.
The Pros to Pro Pets
Offices that do introduce cats or dogs into their professional life can benefit considerably with:
- Greater work/life balance
- Reduced stress
- Increased communication
- Increased socialisation
- A friendlier office brand
Pet owners would arguably benefit the most from bringing their pets to work. Leaving a dog at home is not conducive to the pets wellbeing, and leaving them in doggy-daycare centres may not be conducive to the owner’s bank account! Commutes can incorporate a walk for the dog, combined with a day of wandering around a large space at will, providing great stimulus for any pooch. Interacting with other humans and pets alike also boosts their mood with regular head scratches and new friends. At the end of the day their owner can rest assured their dog is fully satisfied by a day at the office and needn’t worry about rushing home to squeeze in a walk while trying to juggle their daily routine.
Studies have found that employee stress is significantly reduced with the introduction of a pet. Providing a grateful cat or dog with a scratch behind the ear does significantly far more for you than the pet. A brief release of dopamine to cool a hard-working brain during a tough day, will significantly benefit your mood and output.
Pets also encourage communication and socialising between employees across departments and seniority. Pets are regularly used to aid other people in society who may experience difficulty in bridging the social gap, and these effects do not disappear in the office either. These benefits stack on another and build a wholesome and open office environment. A culture such as this is one that companies spend millions on trying to replicate, and all it might take is a fur-four-legged friend to act as a CATalyst.
The Cat Amongst The Pigeons
Before you rush out to purchase your Doberman his first pair of shirt and slacks, it is important to remember that not everybody will be on board with the boardroom wolfpack. A work environment is a collaborative team effort and alienating anybody would have the exact opposite effect you hope to introduce.
Some people may be unable to interact with cats and dogs due to allergies, or just their personal preference. We believe that anybody can become cat/dog lovers once they find the right situation. However that situation may not be on their first day in a new office! Also with all this focus on the humans, it may be worth considering that cats and dogs may not want to be in the office any more than we do!
Keeping a Collar on the Situation
There are a number of important things to consider when introducing your cat or dog into a workplace environment. For the benefit of them and the entire office!
Ensure your pet is up to date with any and all flea/tick checks and vaccines before introducing them into a social environment with crowds and other pets.
Pets should be introduced slowly and steadily. Allow them to get to know the office by themselves, with other people, and finally with other pets. This will allow you to see if your pet is indeed right for the working environment and what supports can be offered to them. A quiet space for them to relax undisturbed is a must!
If you can walk your dog to and from the office this will work out some of that nervous energy. Failing that, try to bring them for a walk during lunch so that they can enjoy a nap in the afternoon (pets only).
With your cat or dog turning on their charm to everyone in the office, what harm could just one treat do them? Multiply this by however many people are in the office and your pet could wind up with a serious weight problem. Let people know that their snacks are to be limited (maybe pour some out at the start of the day), or take turns utilising fun systems (employee of the month!).
Provide any employees with allergies the opportunity to keep themselves safe with secluded offices or specific days for pets to join the office. Also ensure that all staff have informed you of any allergies before introducing them to pets.
There is no doubt that introducing a cat or a dog to the office is a fun and beneficial way to liven up a regular day. Studies have proven that they can nurture increased productivity through increased socialising, communication, and reducing stress. An office pet can define where somebody works and their relationship that they have with their job, colleagues, and company. When done with consideration for the staff and the pets, you can create a very special culture which welcomes staff to bring their lives into the office. Enabling your staff bring their whole selves to work will allow them to bring their whole work to the table.