Office dogs: an unnecessary distraction or just straight-up labradorable?
Original illustration by Mark Winter
Beware: terrible puns are ‘littered’ throughout this article.
Winter is here. It’s wet and cold and staring at the same four walls from dark until dark can lead to an atmosphere of borderline melancollie in the office. Some would even say ‘tis the season to be sitting in a poodle of your own tears. Okay – that might be a tad dramatic, but the weather does affect your mood pawly, which can then impact your work. So could bringing canine companions into the workplace pug that hole and be the key for employees in their pursuit of yappiness?
Nestlé Gatwick is a prime example of a business that’s barking up exactly the right tree. Their bring-your-dog-to-work policy has been met with a senalsational response from employees, who have fully embraced the opportunity to bring their best friends to work with them.
The Nestlé initiative has highlighted some key benefits to having dogs in the office, particularly the effect that they can have on mental health. While it may not always be evident thanks to that quintessentially British tendency to simply form mastiff upper lip when we’re struggling, mental health problems have never been more prevalent. But dog-exposure is known to be an effective treatment method for stress, which is why therapy dogs can often help their owners to find a new leash of life.
In 2012, the aptly named Randolph T. Barker PhD at Virginia Commonwealth University looked at the stress levels of a manufacturing company’s employees who brought their dogs to work. By comparison to those who did not, the workers with sidekicks reported feeling significantly less stressed throughout the day. I know – shocking.
Other potential benefits include employees being encouraged to exercise on their lunch breaks, which is widely accepted as having a positive effect on mental health and general happiness. Nestlé workers also reported that the scheme promotes a more social atmosphere, since people will stop to pet a dog and talk, which is especially useful as an ice-breaker if you’re new and working a-mongrel-ative strangers.
But before you go and hound your boss to get down to the shelter, there are some drawbacks and other factors to consider. Ruffly 15–30% of people with allergies have reactions to dogs and cats, though this can often be managed through regular cleaning of the environment, hypoallergenic breeds and other dog/work/life hacks. In a similar vein, there are those unfortunate souls afflicted with cynophobia (fear of dogs) for whom I reserve my deepest sympathies. Another consideration is the zoonoses (not a pun) that can be transmitted from dogs to humans, so a good pooch health plan is a mutts-have.
Then there’s that awkward moment when a dog will just whippet out and cocker its leg against the furniture, which may require a Bruce Almighty-style fifty-yard dachshund to get the dog outside before he damages any important documents. Speaking of damage – it’s also a good idea to ensure that any dogs in the office are fully trained and not predisposed to chewing or clawing anything (particularly people).
While there are some possible stumbling blocks to office dogs, it’s hard to deny the positive impact they can have. Karian and Box(er) may be a dogless environment, but luckily, I’m able to just beagle-ad to have a job in which I can write a few hundred words of terrible dog puns and call it “work”. Not everyone is so fortunate, though, so if you’re feeling the psychological strain of the season and think a pup could be the answer, then maybe try to pointer your boss in that direction. Hopefully, they won’t be too much of a cocker about it and leave you walking back to your desk with your tail between your legs.