by Art Piccio . March 8th, 2013
And it’s not just some newfangled Gen-Y hooey either. The benefits of keeping pets at work have been observed for at least a few hundred years, and science strongly suggests there’s definitely something to those claims.
There is an ongoing, unofficial movement in American work culture to allow pets in the workplace. Pets (even fish!) have been found to help employees and business owners de-stress, and consequently produce better quality work. It seems to have worked for almost every US President since George Washington.
A study on domestic dogs and human health, published in 2007 in the British Journal of Health Psychology, strongly suggests that dog owners tend to be healthier. Dog owners were found to have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and a lower likelihood of both serious and minor health problems.
Several other studies corroborate these findings, with dog owners often benefiting more than cat owners, and with all pet owners clearly enjoying better health than everyone else.
Pets of course, can help cheer up the grumpiest employees and entrepreneurs. But their positive effects on our mental well-being can also affect our physical health .
The presence of pets and plants has also been significantly tied to a reduction in the severity of depression symptoms – which can explain why workspaces with either or both of these being more efficient. Better health and motivation means fewer sick days taken, and more time spent being productive – which is what we’re all after.
Pets also serve as a team mascots, helping everyone bond and making for a tighter unit. The upsides to better team cohesion can’t be overstated in any work setting.
There are huge caveats to having pets at work. While the pros of having them around are pretty solid, they aren’t suited for all work environments. Consider the following:
It’s hard to believe, but there are a few people out there who can’t stand kittens or puppies. If a significant number of people in your team are against having certain kinds of pets around, it might do more harm than good. Don’t count on converting them into animal lovers either.
Also, not all clients who visit your workspace would appreciate being face to face with company critters -no matter how cute. Make sure you’re able to keep your pets away from visitors if you need to.
Someone has to feed fish on weekends! Not a problem for home offices, though.
Unlike people, pets don’t have days off. We can’t stress how much of a responsibility pet ownership is. Someone has to be responsible for the health and well-being of pets at all times – even on days off. If the pets can’t stay on site on days where no one has to come in for work, make sure that someone’s fine taking them home on at least a temporary basis.
Do you really need that spider monkey or that $200 a week saltwater aquarium? Granted, these are expensive examples, but all pets have their associated costs. They’re NOT one-time purchases.
Pet maintenance is an ongoing cost. Using a “free” cat as an example – food, vaccination, medical check-ups, toys, and grooming costs can go up to $500-$1,000 on the first year And that is supposing you got that cat for free.
In reality though, many people do not give their pets the care they deserve and they spend much less – we do not in any way encourage this. If you can barely pay your employees on time or don’t even have a toilet that flushes, it’s best you don’t keep any pets on the premises for now because you won’t be doing the business nor the animal any favors .
Here’s a nice infographic on the top 10 most expensive pets to own in the US.
For many businesses that have chosen to keep pets, it’s become unthinkable to do things any other way. In the end, keeping pets is part of the human condition, and having them around satisfies one of our basest needs. They can give you and your employees years of unconditional love and companionship. If you can afford it, having a cat, dog, or even a fish might be a truly cost-effective way to get the very best from your team.
All images c/o Creative Commons, The Telegraph, and Getty Images
Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.