Well­ness

The ben­e­fits of pets in the work­place

Good - - CONTENTS - with Rachel Grun­well

Awag­ging tail is how a dog smiles and when we see that wag­ging tail, it makes us smile too. It turns out smil­ing more is one of the top ben­e­fits of a pet-friendly work­place. Smil­ing, en­hanced em­ployee en­gage­ment, mo­ti­va­tion and lik­a­bil­ity are all ben­e­fits of a pet-friendly work­place, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent study by Pu­rina PetCare. More than 60 per cent of em­ploy­ees agreed they liked their em­ploy­ers more be­cause they of­fered them this ben­e­fit.

At Tan­gi­ble Me­dia (pub­lisher of Good) staff can bring their furry friends into work, and pub­lic re­la­tions com­pany Pead PR has ‘Dog Day Fri­days’.

“It’s a great way to keep stress lev­els in check and boost cre­ativ­ity,” says Pead PR CEO Deb­o­rah Pead. “Hav­ing the dogs around is great for both men­tal and phys­i­cal well­be­ing – whether it’s hav­ing a quick cud­dle or tak­ing them out for a walk.”

It’s not only dogs that im­bue that feel-good fac­tor. Jenna Todd of Time Out Book­store, Mt Eden, Auck­land has been work­ing with her cat Lucinda for the past seven years. Many lo­cals also pop into the store just to see Lucinda.

As a home-based free­lancer my cat Hermione is my con­stant com­pan­ion and best dis­trac­tion to my dead­lines. When I pick Hermione up for silky-soft snug­gles, I get an im­me­di­ate pick-meup and smile. Stroking her fur, and hear­ing her purr, is sooth­ing. I laugh as she jumps onto my work chair to ‘swipe’ my hair. Or she pounces on my desk want­ing to play. She’s mis­chievous and joy­ful.

Jar­rod Haar, pro­fes­sor of hu­man re­source man­age­ment at the Auck­land Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, calls Hermione and other pets “mood in­flu­encers”. So Hermione also helps me in other ways, ex­plains Haar. “We per­form bet­ter when we’re in a more pos­i­tive frame of mind,” he says.

A grow­ing num­ber of em­ploy­ers now have pet-friendly poli­cies across New Zealand.

Ac­cord­ing to Cigna In­sur­ance’s 2017 360° Well­be­ing Sur­vey, 29 per cent of those sur­veyed said their em­ployer of­fered a well­ness pro­gramme, with 59 per cent say­ing it makes them feel that their com­pany val­ues their work/life bal­ance.

Haar says well­ness ini­tia­tives can in­flu­ence bet­ter pro­duc­tiv­ity, work­place re­ten­tion, and re­sult in less ab­sen­teeism and a health­ier ‘bot­tom line’. He says this is all linked to the ‘con­ta­gion ef­fect’. “Es­sen­tially if you work in a healthy and happy team you ‘catch’ peo­ple’s moods”.

Haar says ben­e­fits to staff in gen­eral “help a com­pany to have a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage… ben­e­fits sig­nal to em­ploy­ees that the com­pany cares”. Work­place well­be­ing can also help with the ‘so­cial ex­change the­ory’. This means that when we treat peo­ple well, they can want to ‘give back’ i.e., work well.

A grow­ing body of re­search sug­gests pets are pow­er­ful health cham­pi­ons in their own right. Ac­cord­ing to Uni­ver­sity of Can­ter­bury pet ex­pert Dr Annie Potts, “just watch­ing a fish can re­duce blood pres­sure and pro­duce a state of re­lax­ation”. Sci­en­tists have also shown that lev­els of the ‘worry hor­mone’ cor­ti­sol were lower in sam­ples taken from em­ploy­ees who were al­lowed to take their pets to the of­fice. Re­laxed work­ers tend to make bet­ter de­ci­sions, have fewer ac­ci­dents and are more pleas­ant to their col­leagues.

There are also ben­e­fits from stroking pets. The com­bi­na­tion of the car­ing ges­ture and the calm, rhyth­mic pat­ting has been shown to re­lease a string of feel-good chem­i­cals in the brain, in­clud­ing dopamine and oxy­tocin. Rachel is a mum, marathoner, writer and yoga teacher.

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