Are dogs a low-cost wellness initiative?

Perhaps it is time to let the workplace go to the dogs.

golden retriever puppy dog hugging british cat. isolated on white background
Ermolaev Alexander

Research, although limited in scope, is starting to show that there is great value in having pets in the workplace. We know that universities and colleges are using pets to reduce stress and anxiety around exam times on campus.  HR take note: you may soon be recruiting dogs and cats.

A study done at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and reported in the Journal of Workplace Health Management in 2012, found that the presence of dogs in the workplace reduces perceived levels of stress among the employees. In addition, an University of Missouri-Columbia (UMC) 2004 study illustrated that petting a dog can reduce one’s blood pressure by 10%. These are all great workplace wellness initiatives.

Click here to read more details about the VCU study.

Click here to read more details about the UMC study.

So the question HR departments may have to ask themselves is: do the benefits outweigh the risks? HRM Canada summarizes the pros and cons of pets in the workplace in an online article posted Oct 20, 2016.

Click here the list on HRM Canada’s website.

 The Positives:

  • Many love pets in the workplace (both employees and customers included)
  • Reduces perceived stress in the workplace and lowers blood pressure
  • May encourage employees to walk around more (constant sitting is reportedly the new smoking)

These are great health and wellness initiatives that do not add any costs to your drug benefit programs.

If only it was that simple, but there are always negatives to every wellness initiative and HR has to determine the overall cost benefit.

 The Negatives:

  • Safety and employees/customers with pet allergies
  • Lawsuits
  • Workplace distractions (we already have the dancing cat videos)

The jury is still out on this one: bringing pets into the workplace does have its benefits but it can very quickly lead to complications. HR must very clearly demonstrate the benefits and carefully plan to overcome the negatives. Well devised HR pet policies for the workplace must be developed before it tackles this pets-as-a-wellness initiative.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Research two companies that have successfully brought pets into the workplace. Present a 5 min presentation on the information you found.
  1. Your CEO is interested in bringing dogs into the workplace, and has asked you to draft a comprehensive HR “Pets in the Workplace Policy” that she can present at an upcoming board meeting for approval. Include an executive summary of the research that supports pets in the workplace.