If you work in an office that doesn’t allow pets on the premises, you probably envy friends working in atmospheres were pets are welcome. Management that does not allow pets in the workplace often cite mess, distraction and possible annoyance of clients as good reasons for their decision, yet those who actually work in the companionship pets will tell you that this is far from the case. Most well-behaved pooches are content to relax in a comfy bed by your desk, waiting patiently until the next walk. Moreover, most offices with pets will probably tell you that clients usually enjoy seeing and interacting with dogs when they do visit your office – very few (or none) will probably mention anything negative about their close encounter with the furry kind.
The benefits of bringing pets into the office far outweigh any hassles (such as having to take a short break every few hours to take them for a quick walk). Research has shown, for instance, that pets significantly reduce stress levels, so much so that they are being employed across the nation to help those suffering from conditions such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), ADHD and addiction. Indeed, some of these patients report that since spending more time in company of a dog, their anxiety and panic levels reduce dramatically, so much so that pets do away with the need to switch or increase any medication they are taking. Pets have been found to increase levels of feel-good hormone, oxytocin, thereby decreasing levels of stress hormone, cortisol.
Pets also help by encouraging a state of mindfulness – the latter is a buzzword in many recovery centres, and all it involves is ‘being in the here and now’; enjoying the present moment instead of allowing oneself to get stuck in the past or to worry about the future. Regret, guilt and panic are powerful triggers for a host of conditions, including anxiety and depression. Across the globe, millions of people are turning to mindful activities such as yoga and Tai-Chi, in an effort to battle stress and mental disease. Pets allow us to achieve a mindful state in a much quicker and more direct fashion, and nowhere is this more important than at work, when we need to keep our mind on the task at hand and on our ultimate goals. Having a pet in the office allows us to utilize our free moments between tasks in a positive manner, by interacting with our pets, enjoying a break without the need to escape from the present moment.
Dogs have been found to alter our autonomic body functions – this means that without even thinking about the effect they are having, we benefit greatly from the presence of a calm dog. Our blood pressure and respiration rate are decreased, as is our oxygen consumption and muscular tension. Interacting with pets has also been proven to release endorphins, which enhance brain functioning by improving our problem solving skills, stimulating our imagination and strengthening our communication skills with others. It is no wonder that some of the best managers are waking up to the positive effects that pets (particularly dogs) can have on the workplace – clearly, the office itself has plenty to gain from workers who are more alert and creative, thanks to the presence of pets.
Scientists at the American Heart Association have concluded that having a dog in particular can lower the risk of heart disease, thereby increasing our lifespan. People who have dogs have been found to live longer, and it isn’t only because they are forced to be more active and take their dogs for walks. Because having dogs lowers blood pressure and stress, they are more likely to be less vulnerable to the effects stress can have on their health, and be more likely to survive a heart attack. One study, carried out in 2001, observed a group of people with high blood pressure and high stress jobs who committed to adopting a dog or cat. Six months down the line, their blood pressure lowered significantly when they were stressed, compared to those who did not adopt a dog or cat. Another study followed 369 people with heart disease, to see the effects pets could have on their condition. One year later, those who owned a dog where four times more likely to still be alive.
It could be argued that dogs are not only beneficial to a workplace, they are actually necessary owing to the many effects they can bring to the health not only of their owners, but rather, to everyone in an office. Stress busting, mindfulness inducing, heart healthy dogs should be part and parcel of every work environment that values the mental and physical health of its workers
This Guest Post was contributed by Gemma Matthews.
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