The evolving "new way to work" accommodates employee lifestyles to attract and retain talent. While Gen-Xers expect their careers to be more flexible with mobile and virtual teams, some in-office "disruptions" heighten and optimize creativity and workflow. One of the best additions to add to your company's HR program, science suggests, is to bring your dog to work.
The Science of Cuteness
Researchers at Hiroshima University conducted a study concluding that looking at pictures of baby animals improves productivity by nearly 17 percent. Forty-eight university students peered at pictures before completing various tasks and were more productive while concentrating on a Japanese children's game, which required focus and precision.
"For future applications, a cute object may be used as an 'emotion elicitor' to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situation, such as driving and office work," read the study. Participants' focus during the study increased, "induced by the cuteness-triggered positive emotion."
Pet policies can lighten the office mood and help employees bond, forming tight-knit professional communities through shared experiences and feel good emotions when working on a task alongside your furry friend. Oxytocin, the feel good hormone produced when people are intimate, hug or see something cute is also in charge of helping people form attachments.
Pet policies also help employees feel rejuvenated throughout the day. The journal Cognition read that having something else to think about can help people maintain their focus much longer when their brains are given a distraction every 20 minutes, at which point thinking becomes less efficient. Petting your dog, or taking them out for a quick walk around the block can be a "momentary deactivation," keeping your mind from becoming fatigued after long periods of work. When a person diverts their attention the mind is better able to refresh the same neural network being used in the brain.
Pet policies help your brain waves. Herbert Benson at Harvard, author of The Relaxation Response, recommends an employee stops working once he or she feels stressed, restless, hungry etc. At those moments, an employee should disengage and let his or her brain go into a state of relaxation to reset alertness. It all has to do with the way your brain works; while conscious, your brain cycles through busy beta waves, higher alertness, to lower alertness, so every ninety minutes of focus should be coupled with 10 minutes of relaxation.
Executive Administrator Quinn Morrision at Eastwick in Silicon Valley said:
When my work load gets a little crazy and I need a moment to regroup, Ellie [Quinn's dog] is right at my feet. Sometimes I feel like she can sense it. Taking even just one moment to pet her and appreciate her is all I need to align my thoughts and get back to work. A few barks here and there from romping around with the other office dogs is a welcomed noise in my opinion. Reminds me that play is important and to come up for air ever so often.
When Pet Policies Bite Back
Not every company has puppy love despite their pet policies. Administrative Assistant Suzie Smith from a Toronto-based marketing group said:
[Some management] is not a big fan of having the dogs around. At one point a couple of months ago, the dog came into a conference room, where a meeting was going on with my boss and an important client. Another dog then followed into the room and they had a fight. It was not good, and my boss was really angry. The stricter guidelines followed soon after.
While policies may become stricter, some companies roll with the punches. Auditor Christina Yum visited one of her clients, a start-up company, to find an unwelcomed surprise by her desk on her first day.
In an e-mail, she wrote:
This little fella comes under my desk -- he's like the company mascot and is pretty much the only dog in the office. I start to pet him because he's so cute, but then he starts dragging his butt around and has a funny look on his face. Not sure what he ate, but there was watery diarrhea all around my feet and desk. It smelled horrific. I personally found it hilarious, but the employees around me were not very entertained.
Despite canine mishaps, companies like Zynga, Eventbrite, Authentic Entertainment, EnviroMedia, etc. favor the pooch over the feline counterpart. The Google Code of Conduct takes a stance on cats: "Google's affection for our canine friends is an integral facet of our corporate culture. We like cats, but we're a dog company, so as a general rule we feel cats visiting our offices would be fairly stressed out."
Meet The #DogsofEastwick
Eastwick, a technology strategic communications firm, lead by CEO Barbara Bates, motivates the 40-person agency with frequent professional development opportunities and bi-annual off-site meetings in wine country. One of the vital perks to Eastwick, essential to the everyday atmosphere of the personable, yet professional office, is how so many employees bring their dogs to work. To Eastwick, dogs are a morale boost and handy for employees. The dogs get taken on regular walks outside, both at the San Francisco and Sunnyvale offices, and get to move around. As long as they are well behaved and not a distraction, dogs in the workplace really are a win-win situation.
- Dog: Phineas "Phinny"
- Best Dog Practice: Always have a bone or treat on hand in case he gets restless. That has saved the day on many a conference call for me!
- Owner, Caitlin Epstein says: "I love having Phinny in the office; it forces me to take a break to get some fresh air during the day and I always come back feeling refreshed. I also think it contributes to a cheerful work environment; it's fun having an office "mascot" to keep stress levels down. Also, as a pet owner, it's great to not have to feel guilty that he is home alone all day long."
- Dog: Lucy a.k.a "Bear"
- Best Dog Practice: Squeaker balls (not office friendly) and fuzzy love. And couches in the office.
- Owner, Morgan Kleiderlein says: With Bear in the office, I don't have to worry about getting home by a certain time or if a meeting runs long. Stress free!
- Dog: Bruno
- Best Practice: With a mellow dog like Bruno, he can pretty much sleep anywhere, so he's a perfect desk companion.
- Owner, Mike Kanellos says: I don't have to get doggie day care and my dog puts everyone at ease.
- Dog: Ellie
- Best Dog Practice: Making sure she is comfortable. Give her a blanket, treats, water and an appropriate amount of attention.
- Owner, Quinn Morrison says: My stress level at work stays in check with her presence and I don't have to rush to get home because I left her there.
Disclaimer: Christine Deakers works at Eastwick SF. Want to learn more about the dogs of Eastwick? Follow #dogsofeastwick or @eastwickcom on Instagram.