To appeal to industry talent, many workplaces have bolstered their workplace benefits – introducing perks such as flexible working, unlimited annual leave, allowing employees to bring their pets into the office with them, and more.
However, the coronavirus pandemic (and the lockdowns that have come with it) have meant that many employees are now working from home, and this transition has meant that many are missing out on these more unique aspects of company culture.
Working from home has meant we have to adapt, and as an industry leader in bespoke designed garden offices we’ve seen first-hand that having a designated space to work from has many benefits, including helping to balance our work and personal lives, making the most of our outdoor space, and allowing us to spend more time with our pets, regardless of whether our employer has a pet friendly policy or not.
To get some expert advice into the subject, we questioned multiple experts (including in the fields of psychology, mental health, workplace wellbeing, productivity, and so on) about the benefits of having a dog in the office, whether it be in a traditional office environment or our DIY work from home setups.
The experts included:
- Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo,
Photo credit: Sue McCabe, trainer and behaviourist at Muttamorphosis Dog Training
As well as helping our mental health, our pets can also offer companionship, helping us to combat loneliness. Catherine Burn commented that “pets are great companions. They can give you company, especially when you’re not around your colleagues, which can help you feel less isolated”.
Joe Nutkins added that “our pets give us someone to talk to, confide in and offer us unconditional affection which in turn boosts our serotonin levels and production of oxytocin – both helping us feel loved and happy! This can have a knock-on effect with helping us naturally lower our cortisone levels and help us feel less stressed”.
Dr. Heather Venkat shared that “my dog actually helps me to tackle my work better by being a companion and helps motivate me so that I don’t feel alone while working. I can also connect with other co-workers virtually by talking about our dogs and it helps us work well together on our projects knowing that we have something in common”.
Photo credit: Christopher Palmer-Smith, COO, Kybotech
Another, more obvious, benefit is the exercise aspect. Paul McCrossin commented that “walking and exercise is a well-documented way to reduce mental stress.”
Catherine Burn added that “in particular, dogs are a great excuse to get out and have some exercise, and even speak to a few dog owners along the way which helps social connection. The benefits of regular exercise on mental health are well supported; it can reduce stress, improve your mood and help you sleep better”.
Photo credit: Ivan Latter, Eccommerce & Marketing
While there are numerous benefits to having an office (or WFH) dog, it is worth noting the impact that this is having on our pets. Sue McCabe added “some dogs will have relished in having their owners at home more, but others will have found the noise and activity of the busy household more difficult to cope with.
“For the first group, the company of their human will have boosted feel good hormones, serotonin and oxytocin, decreasing alone time stress and improving both physical and mental wellbeing. The flip side is that some dogs have really struggled with the increased traffic of a busy lockdown house, full of kids and adults. I have seen an increase in behaviour problems as a result, notable anxiety, possessive aggression and in some cases chronic avoidance behaviours, in an attempt to get some peaceful down time away from the buzz of a busy family at home 24 hours a day”.
Debby Lucken explained that “most dogs have adapted well to having their owners home much more than before. What is perhaps more difficult for dogs to understand, it’s that their owner’s time isn’t dedicated to them, as much as it would normally be when home. Another issue that we, professionals, have noticed, is the lack of ‘alone’ time dogs are having while their owners work from home. Dogs will find it exceedingly difficult to accept and can develop something called Separation Anxiety, which is a condition that makes dogs feel abandoned when left alone. It is important to keep your dogs used to being left for a while, even when working from home, so that they will not be too affected when the time to go back to work will come again”.
Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo said “we do also need to consider the ethics of acquiring a pet during lockdown if this is not something you have considered before. A new pet can be a large transition and involve a considerable amount of emotional and physical input. This may not be wise if you are already struggling with the demands placed upon you when working from home and perhaps managing additional pressure such as childcare”.
As part of our research, we also collated some real-life stories of how dogs are helping their owners as they work from home:
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