08:46 Thursday 27 September 2012

Pets at Work

Written byBy Dale Preece-Kelly

We know that we like pets in our homes, and most schools these days have a hamster or stick insects. Why then, do we not have pets at work? In this months blog, I am going to explore this subject, and would welcome your input on it.

First of all, there ARE companies that already allow employees to bring their pets to work. Most of these are based in America, and a survey conducted in 2006 by The American Pet Product Manufacturers Association (APPMA) reports that nearly one in five American companies allows pets in the workplace. Amongst these companies are Amazon, Google and Ben & Jerry – yes, the ice cream maker. Suffice to say, the pets are not allowed onto the shopfloor, but are welcomed in the offices. There are strict rules and guidelines that employees bringing their pets to work have to adhere to – especially regarding clearing up after their pets, and consideration for co-workers with allergies.

These companies tend to allow just dogs to be brought to work though, and given that we know we should not leave our dogs alone for longer than 4 or 5 hours, this is as good for the dogs as it is for their owners. A recent study by Central Michigan University (reported in the Economist in August 2010) revealed that dogs in the workplace can lead to more trust between co-workers and that leads to more collaboration among team members. This can only be a good thing for productivity surely.

Reading this information, I wanted to know if any other trials had been done involving pets in the workplace. I looked into this a bit further and found that scientists had proven that a fish tank in a call centre, actually made it easier for the operatives to deal with difficult callers – when on a difficult call, the employees would watch the fish, making them calmer and more able to deal with the task.

One company tried a parrot, which proved to actually increase stress in the workplace, because of the noise that the animal made. Another put a hamster in the workplace, but used one of the stacking systems with tubes, and ran the tubes over and around the office desks. The hamster would run through the tubes, and the workers would give the hamster treats as it passed. This brought a general calm and happiness to the office. Not only did it reduce the stress of the workforce, but also the manager, as his team were happier and therefore had less issues with their routine tasks – and it also made them more productive.

Personally I feel that these results were shown because the distraction of the hamster passing the desk and receiving a treat from the employee, was enough to give a small but frequent relaxing break, and this is how pet therapy works – the interaction with the animals has to be on a regular and sustained basis.

Also acts of kindness tend to make us happier, therefore showing the animal kindness as he passed the desks, would have made the employee smile and therefore feel better about themselves. All of this makes for a more positive attitude, and a happier employee - multiply this by a team of 8 or 10 people and the atmosphere and environment become more positively charged and the team does too!

As a result of reading these studies, I now have a 'Desk Pet' as an experiment, to see if it makes me any more productive in my work. So far it has certainly given me something to look at when thinking – in a way it helps me concentrate and focus on my thoughts better. I know that I am surrounded by animals and my office space is filled with them, but to have one here in front of me is somehow more special. My 'Desk Pet' is a Thorny Toad or Desert Spiny Lizard called Stig, and very cute and interesting to watch.

Obviously this brings all manner of health and safety matters to the fore as well as moral arguments (although the Humane Society head office encourages employees to bring their dogs to work). We have to think about the health and welfare of the animals, and how the animal would be cared for as well as their quality of life. With the class pet, however, this has already been taken into account and is felt to be an acceptable situation. Maybe we should just start with an option to bring our dogs to work and then evolve the idea from there?

Anyone wishing to discuss this idea further with me, in terms of developing the idea of 'workplace pets', then please get in touch.

allsorts@critterishallsorts.co.uk

Telephone: 01543 342632

Mobile: 07794 342355

Critterish Allsorts undertake animal assisted therapy sessions, with their critters (who are all family pets), on an individual or group basis in your home, hospital, care home, foster home, or school. Visit their website for more information.

This blog is written by Dale Preece-Kelly from Critterish Allsorts, if you would like to find out more about them check out our previous article 'Meet the Critterish Allsorts'.
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