An amazing job in my field came up a few weeks ago. It was a short contract, part-time position and I was perfectly qualified to apply.
Yet, I didn’t. I couldn’t, because like so many other roles I have seen advertised recently the office was pet-friendly. And not just any pets – cats. Dogs by discussion, it stated.
What’s going on? I don’t want a dog or cat anywhere near me at the best of times, never mind when I’m working. I have horrible allergies to both animals that render me useless, and a malingering phobia of dogs since I was a kid. Although I have desensitized myself over the last few decades, big dogs in particular remain a challenge. Cats are lovely, but after a few hours in their presence I start to wheeze and feel like I have a full-blown flu episode brewing. It’s much easier to steer clear of them.
But people who want to have their pet in the office don’t think of us immune-challenged humans. Or they do, and make the decision to bring their pooches to work regardless.
Pros and Cons of Office Pets
Not everyone wants to leave their beloved Rover home alone all day. That’s understandable. I feel sorry for dogs that are left for 8-10 hours a day until their owners come home. Not everyone can afford doggie day care or a dog walker.
Having your pet beside you at work all day is bound to feel great. A quick online search will bring up endless articles supporting animals in the work place and their advantages. They say that having a dog in the office helps with team bonding, promotes a relaxed atmosphere, and reduces stress levels all around.
But these plus points contrast with the opinion of people like me. I can vouch that it works in complete opposition. If there’s a dog in the office, my stress levels are through the roof, I can’t concentrate, constantly check where the dog is, hope I’m not ask to pet it, and avoid it like the plague.
Research on Stress Levels
Despite the swathe of information supporting the presence of dogs in the office, there is very little evidence to suggest this is true.
The majority of scientific research that has been carried out around dogs and stress levels are trials done in highly controlled circumstances. These studies have consisted of single, one-hour or less sessions therefore making it impossible to truly report on the long terms effect of dogs and stress reduction. Still, reducing stress levels is the number one reason people cite when arguing their case for having dogs in the office.
Would it not be more worthwhile to address the issues causing the stress? Tackle the issues head on instead of allowing pets to be present to help people cope. That’s merely plastering over the real problems.
If things can’t be resolved without having your dog around for emotional support, there are bigger issues at play, which perhaps would be better dealt with through a focused stress-reduction plan.
People with allergies can’t sort their problem so easily. No amount of antihistamines or allergy shots will help me hang around cats or dogs. I’ve tried them, for three years in a row. They haven’t worked for me. If I could have a meeting with management to resolve my allergies, that would be wonderful. I’d meet with them every day if I could. But that’s not how it works.
People’s mental health matters just as much as someone’s allergies. But it’s not about whose health matters more. It’s about having common sense and making a workplace safe and comfortable for everyone.It’s about having common sense and making a workplace safe and comfortable for everyone. Click To Tweet
It was only 20 years ago that smoking was completely acceptable in offices. Then, we discovered that the actions of one could dramatically affect the health of many. It became a real concern and smoking was banned. It made sense.
Making a workplace inclusive means making it safe for everyone. No matter the positive intent, it’s likely a pet-friendly workplace does not meet this requirement.
Better Ways to Deal With Stress
Consistent stress can seriously affect people’s work and life. Introducing ways to deal with increased stress in the workplace is vital to ensure staff contentment and retention.
Here we offer seven ways HR teams can help keep stress levels at a minimum.
1. Offer wellness programs within the workplace or discounted membership at a nearby gym.
2. Introduce regular meditation or yoga classes in the workplace before work.
4. Be open to communication. Listen to workers who voice concerns and address them appropriately.
5. Introduce manager training programs to enable HR managers learn effective strategies around helping direct reports prioritize their workload.
6. Offer mentorship programs for new employees to help them settle in easily, avoiding undue stress from the outset.
7. Offer flexible working arrangements for workers who acknowledge outside stressors carry through to the workplace, i.e. child care issues or medical appointments.
By implementing some or all of these pointers, not only will it benefit employee stress, but it should also help improve overall morale within the office.