Feeling rough? Dogs in the workplace could help to relieve stress

Having dogs in the workplace can serve to reduce stress levels among employees, new research has indicated. A study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management has found that job satisfaction goes up in businesses where dogs are allowed.

Investigators from Virginia Commonwealth University found canines can make a positive difference in offices, claiming the impact of such an approach is often significant.

The appropriately named Randolph Barker, Professor of Management in the School of Business at Virginia Commonwealth University, said: "Pet presence may serve as a low-cost, wellness intervention readily available to many organisations and may enhance organisational satisfaction and perceptions of support."

Professor Barker pointed out, however, that a number of policies would need to be put in place in order for this to happen. These are likely to include assurances that only pets deemed clean, friendly and well-behaved are allowed in a place of work.

Dr Caroline Schuster, a Chartered Psychologist, comments:

“Pets in the workplace are definitely a hot topic. We already know that in certain circumstances pets (particularly dogs) can be beneficial to us humans - helping to calm us by lowering our pulse and blood pressure rates).

“We have seen in recent times dogs being allowed, under strict conditions, into hospital wards - their presence seeming to enhance the healing process. In 2010, PAT (Pets As Therapy) dogs have already been helping out in children's wards (Bristol Children's Hospital) and we know just how valuable dogs and horses can be in the therapeutic arena.

“AAT (Animal-Assisted Therapy) and EAT (Equine-Assisted Therapy) are treatment modalities that we hear more and more about as psychologists. So pets in the workplace could work just as well, couldn't it?

“Well, whilst we understand that animals can and do help us in many ways, we need to be aware of certain issues. We need to consider the animal itself and that, in all cases, animals who are used to assist in treatments do need extra training to be able to work effectively and within humane boundaries.

“The type and temperament of the pet needs to be considered, as not all dog breeds are suited to assistance work. Some US companies now have dog-friendly policies that allow employees to bring well-behaved pets to work and it seems that the recipe for success with this initiative is when employees understand that such policies are a privilege and not a guarantee."