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Positive Steps Towards More Pet Friendly Workspaces

As lockdown eases and some of us head back to the office, National Pet Month focuses on Pets And People: Caring For Each Other at work.

As lockdown eases and some of us head back to the office, National Pet Month focuses on Pets And People: Caring For Each Other at work.

There are huge benefits to mental wellbeing for workers when there’s a pet in the office.

Recent studies have shown that a large percentage of UK residents believe bringing a pet to work or working in a pet friendly environment would have a positive impact on their overall health. Employers too can see higher employee engagement, talent retention, greater wellbeing, higher performance and productivity,

Yet of pet owners surveyed in the recent PFMA (Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association) survey, only 15% reported that their workplace is dog friendly.

In all, 59% of UK households have a pet, with 3.2 million acquiring one during the pandemic, suggesting there is an increasing need for and benefit to creating more pet friendly work spaces. Particularly as there are 12 million dogs.

Before the pandemic, some Brits had the option of bringing their dog to the office. According to research by Purina, ‘canine colleagues’ are key to tackling workplace stress and anxiety. Furthermore, 81% of us believe that pet-friendly workplaces are happier workplaces.

Though this may not come as a surprise to all of us that share our homes with a four-legged friend, it’s important to remind employers about the positive impact our animal companions can have at work – the perfect antidote to stress and anxiety.

 

Clearly, many people have become used to working from home with their pets.

 

So, as we gradually return to the workplace, we’ve spoken to our friends at Purina who have introduced a PAW (Pets At Work) scheme, encouraging more workplaces to become pet friendly.

 

Last July the company piloted bringing dogs back into its Gatwick office on a limited basis and has put together some top tips and advice for those employers considering how to safely include dogs in the workplace.

 

So, what are the key benefits of a pet friendly work environment?

 

1. Stroking a dog has been proven to reduce stress, whether the dog belongs to you or not

Just the act of stroking and petting a dog has a calming effect on most people. It relaxes us, giving us a little burst of the bonding hormone, oxytocin. Just feeling that soft fur also lowers our heart rate and blood pressure.

 

2. Pets are a compelling source of social support for us

Pets, especially dogs, are very loyal and non-judgemental. They show you unconditional love, even if you’re having a bad day or feeling down. Dogs always respond well to a few kind words or a stroke, with enthusiasm and happiness, which can be very infectious. We feel rewarded by our actions, raising dopamine – the reward hormone – reducing cortisol, the stress hormone.

 

3. Dogs encourage outgoing and sociable behaviour

Dogs can be an ice breaker – most people can’t resist petting or talking to dogs and in that British reserved way, it’s much easier talking to the dog before the owner! This positive behaviour also works in the professional environment, encouraging your colleagues to talk more to you and to each other, both in groups and individually.

 

4. Dogs lower stress related symptoms, like heart rate, high blood pressure, cholesterol and loneliness

Being around dogs in the workplace has multiple health benefits. In terms of productivity, studies have shown that employees in pet-friendly offices make less visits to their GP and take fewer sick days.

 

“It’s likely many employees will be facing increased anxiety as they adapt to the change in routine of commuting and working in an office again,” says leading psychologist, Jo Hemmings.

 

“Many dog owners will have become especially close to their pets during lockdown which will have had a beneficial effect on both pets and owners, giving them an even more secure relationship during a very difficult time. Finding new and different ways to improve how people feel at work post-covid is critical – with many studies showing the positive effects on well-being and stress relief that having their dog with them at work can bring.”

 

With a surge in new pet owners during lockdown, many will be looking at day care options, including the opportunity to take their canine companion to the office.

 

So, it’s important businesses take into consideration the many benefits of welcoming dogs at work and include this in their return to work planning, says Calum Macrae, Regional Director Purina UK & Ireland.

 

“It’s understandable that employers might feel daunted about allowing dogs in the office post-lockdown, but given the overwhelming positive impact that dogs at work can have on employees and the potential for separation anxiety to become a real issue in pet owning households, we want to encourage businesses to seriously consider dogs as part of their return to work plans.

 

“Pet owners have repeatedly talked about the many benefits of spending more time with their pets. We’d encourage as many employers as possible to try to bring these benefits back into the workplace. We have updated our guidance and have experts on hand to help as many workplaces as possible to either stay, or become, dog friendly in these continuingly challenging times.”

 

Here are some of Purina’s Top Tips On Safely Introducing Dogs To Workspaces:

- Limit owners to one dog in the office each

- Limit petting from people who are not the dog owner

- Keep dogs on short leads, not extendable, to prevent straying

- Ensure owners bring in clean water bowls each day for their dog to drink from

- Recommend owners to only share small treats with their dogs in the office

- Ask owners to take dog beds home for washing once a week

Introducing a pet friendly office policy, when the time is right, can transform a working environment. For more information on the Pets at Work (PAW) scheme, visit http://purina.co.uk/our-impact/pets-at-work

 

Do you work in a pet friendly office? What do you love most about sharing your office space with an animal companion? #PetPawsitivity #NPM21

 

Press Office

For media information, images or to speak to a spokesperson about National Pet Month please contact Taz Thornton or Asha Clearwater at Turquoise Tiger on +44 (0)7920 461 044 or email info@nationalpetmonth.org.uk

Please note we have access to a range of spokespeople via our coordinators, sponsors and most animal welfare organisations and charities who get involved with NPM.

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