Here's a way to de-stress at work that we can get behind: Bring your dog to work!
New research from Virginia Commonwealth University showed that bringing dogs to work could lower stress and increase employee satisfaction. The study was published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management.
"Pet presence may serve as a low-cost, wellness intervention readily available to many organizations and may enhance organizational satisfaction and perceptions of support," study researcher Randolph T. Barker, Ph.D., a professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University, said in a statement. "Of course, it is important to have policies in place to ensure only friendly, clean and well-behaved pets are present in the workplace,” he said.
Researchers conducted their study on the employees of a manufacturing retail company called Replacements, Ltd., that allows employees to bring pets to work. There are about 550 people who work at the Greensboro, N.C. company.
The employees of the company were designated into three different categories: those with dogs, who brought them in to work during a workweek; those with dogs who did not bring them into work; and those who don't have a dog. All the employees filled out surveys and produced samples of their saliva to gauge levels of stress hormones.
In the mornings, all three groups' stress hormone levels were about the same. However, as the day went on, the people who brought their dogs in had lower levels of self-reported stress. Meanwhile, self-reported stress increased for the people who didn't bring in their dogs, and for those who don't have dogs.
The researchers also noted that the employees were making positive comments like "pets in the workplace can be a great bonus for employee morale … " and " "having dogs here is great stress relief."
USA Today reported in 2009 on a survey showing that 20 percent of companies are pet-friendly. Some include Urban Decay, in California, and Healthwise, a nonprofit based in Boise.
For more health benefits of pets, click through this slideshow from HuffPost blogger Joan Liebmann-Smith, Ph.D:
Pets can help prevent eczema and some allergies in children. Babies and toddlers who live with dogs -- but not cats -- have lower rates of childhood eczema than those raised without dogs. And young children who've had a cat or dog since their first year of life have fewer pet allergies than other kids their age.
People who own pets make fewer trips to the doctor than those who don't. As a result, pets help keep the cost of health care down for individuals as well as our nation.
Pet owners tend to have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than people who don't have pets.
Petting pets has been shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rates in adults. Even being in the same room with pets, including fish in tanks, can lower blood pressure and reduce stress in adults and children. Indeed, many dentists and other doctors keep aquariums in their waiting rooms. This not only helps relieve anxiety, but reduces the need for pain medication as well.
Regardless of age, people who have pets, especially dogs, get more exercise than non-pet owners. While this isn't surprising for dog owners, owners of other kinds of pets are also more likely to be physically active than people who don't have pets. Perhaps as a result of this increase in exercise, adults and kids with pets also tend to have lower rates of obesity.
Last but not least, dog and cat owners are significantly more likely to survive heart attacks than non-pet owners, regardless of the severity of the heart attacks.
Now that you're aware of the many health benefits pets can give you and your family, why not give something back in return? Since it is the season of giving, please consider giving a loving home to a pet from your local animal shelter or humane society.