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Taking pets to work can reduce stress

3rd April 2012

Researchers in the United States have found that dogs in the workplace can reduce stress, not just for their owners, but for their colleagues.

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People who took their pet dogs to work rather than leaving them at home alone all day showed markedly lower levels of stress during their working day than those who owned pets but did not bring them.

But the effects also transferred themselves to co-workers who had not brought their dogs, and even to those who did not own a pet at all.

The study followed 75 staff members at a US company, and concluded that having access to dogs in the workplace had a beneficial effect on staff morale and limited the stress experienced by employees during the working day.

Writing in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, the researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University carried out the study at a company which already had a pets-at-work policy.

They monitored the study participants over the course of a week, measuring their levels of stress hormones with saliva samples throughout the day.

All three groups had the same levels in the morning, but by the afternoon, stress hormones among the dog owners whose pets were with them tailed off. By comparison, levels of the hormone in non-pet owners, and in the group of pet owners who did not bring their pets to work, rose later in the day.

Lead author Randolph Barker said the employees at the company then reported their levels of job satisfaction. All of them reported higher satisfaction than is normal in that industry.

He said that the differences in perceived stress between days when a person's dog was present and when it was not were "significant".

He said many employees said in interviews that dogs made a positive difference in the workplace.

Workplace stress has been linked in past studies to absenteeism and employee burnout, as well as to a significant loss of productivity.

Blue Cross animal charity spokesperson Louise Lee said the group had always encouraged its own employees to bring their dogs to work where possible.

She said Blue Cross consequently had a more enjoyable working environment where staff were more likely to take regular breaks, which is also recommended for cardiovascular health and to avoid repetitive strain injury.

She said there was also an overall reduction in stress which came from physical contact with dogs during the working day.



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