Who Let the Dogs In -- At Work?

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via Marty NemkoMarty Nemko coaches a client with the help of his furry co-counselor, Einstein.
Leading the way are some of America's most respected employers, from Google to Amazon, Ben & Jerry's to The Daily Show, even the U.S. Congress. According to a 2011/12 survey, three percent of all dog owners bring their ball of fur to work, triple the number from just five years earlier.

I am one. My doggie, Einstein, is the official receptionist and stress reducer in my career counseling practice.

On a typical day, you'll find two or three dozen doggies at Amazon headquarters, and that's nothing compared with Mars Corporation, where, in its pet care division, half its 475 employees bring their doggies to work several days a week.

Of course, if you're a dog lover, the idea of your pooch at work makes you wag your tail: After all, picture your babykins under your desk, and when you need a break, you can take it for a walk that's, ahem, a relief to both of you. Think of poor Fifi who otherwise would have to cross her legs for 8+ hours waiting for mommy or daddy to come home.

But even if you're dog-apathetic, it's worth considering that dogs in the workplace reduce stress and increase camaraderie. Visitors also feel better about the company and thus are more likely to do business with it. The benefits are not merely anecdotal. For example:
  • A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that having your dog at the office reduces stress and boosts employee satisfaction.
  • According to a Virginia Commonwealth University study by Randolph and Sandra Barker (That really is their name!) employees who bring their dogs to work produced lower levels of the stress-causing hormone cortisol. As the workday went on, average stress level score fell 11% among workers who had brought their dogs to work, while the score increased 70% for those who did not.
  • A Central Michigan University study showed that dogs at work "established a sense of employee collaboration and trust."

In addition, according to a 2006 survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturing Association:
  • 55 million Americans believe having pets in the workplace leads to a more creative environment
  • 53 million believe it decreases absenteeism
  • 50 million believe it helps co-workers get along better
  • 38 million believe it creates a more productive work environment, and
  • 46 million believe people who bring their pets to the workplace work longer hours.

Of course, it's easy to imagine problems with doggies at work, but canine-friendly workplaces report problems are generally minimal because most dog owners simply exercise common sense. For example, they may keep their dog attached to their desk with a leash (possibly long). If their dog is aggressive, a barker, not reliably housebroken, or if someone in a nearby cube is allergic despite your regular brushing of Fido's fur, that doggie is left home.

If you'd like to get your workplace to allow doggies, Purina's Pets at Work website offers some step-by-step instructions. Start by citing to your boss the afore-mentioned business advantages of allowing dogs at work. Then show how problems can expeditiously be prevented and addressed. Finally, have employees sign a release form -- and this should satisfy the lawyers.
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