What do bananas, exercise, dark chocolate, and pets have in common? They have all been shown to lower cortisol levels, relieve stress, and reduce blood pressure.

Of course, you’d think nothing of having a banana on your desk at work. But what about a cat?

 

 

Loki keeps Heather focused on the right things.

 

Studies indicate that having pets at work is a good thing. Dutch behavioral psychologist Lotte Spijkerman notes that both cats and dogs “reduce stress and increase productivity” at work. Other pets, such as fish or birds (but surely not snakes!), have a lesser but also “soothing effect” in the office.

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University measured stress hormone levels and discovered that, over the course of the day, stress declined for workers who had their dogs present. Conversely, stress significantly increased for workers who were without dogs at work and for workers without pets in their lives at all.

But the positive effects of pets in the workplace extend beyond the diversion and companionship they provide the individual, as long as proper guidelines are in place and respect for others’ allergies or fears are taken into account.

Allowing properly trained pets at work can provide numerous benefits to the organization itself:

  • Pets in the office increase sociability among coworkers.
  • Customers interact more with staff and become more relaxed when pets are around.
  • Employees around pets claim higher rates of job satisfaction.
  • Pet-friendly environments are less stressful.
  • Workers who can bring their pets to work are generally more productive.
  • People with pets are typically healthier.

I can attest to the benefits firsthand. The first dog I had as an adult was a Boxer who came to work with me every day as a puppy. I was lucky enough to work for a small entrepreneurial employer in the mountains west of Golden who didn’t mind having a dog around the office. It was great for her, me, and the people I worked with. She provided many moments of joy and stress relief.

 

 

Kerry Blue Terrier jumping up to a treeEddy shows Michelle something important.

 

Now I have a Kerry Blue Terrier. The walks I take with Eddy through our woods are restorative. I’m able to transfer my focus from the minutiae to the Big Picture. Some days we walk alone in intentional silence (at least on my part!). Other days I use the walk as an opportunity to connect with various team members by phone. Either way, I’m happier and more refreshed when I return to my desk.

Of course, at EPI we’re able to enjoy pets in our workspace every day because we’re a virtual team. They get us up out of chairs and away from our ubiquitous screens. It’s all too easy to keep our heads down for hours on end and forget about everything else.

But dogs who need walks don’t care about being “in the zone.” Just like cats who want attention don’t give a whit about deadlines. Pets force us to take breaks.

And there’s no doubt that breaks are good for our brains. They’re conducive to creativity, productivity, decision-making, and overall mental and physical health. We work hard at EPI, so we need those breaks to do the best work we can for our clients.

One way we chill out and have fun as a team is by sharing the antics of the animals in our respective lives.

 

Daisy (left) loves Joann and tolerates visitors.

 

Heather regularly makes us laugh with photos of her almost-human cats, Loki and Sweet Miss. And Katherine regales us with tales (tails?) of her dog-sitting adventures. Joann lifts our spirits with pictures of her own dog, Daisy, in addition to illuminating the highs and lows of dog fostering.

 

Maggie keeps a lookout so Jami doesn’t have to.

 

Jami’s huddles almost always include details about the latest shenanigans of her three dogs, Charlotte, Maggie, and Shiloh. Joanna keeps us entertained with accounts of her dogs, Frankie and Charley. And Deanell tells amazing stories of caring for her neighbor’s chicken, the 12-year-old Dizzle.

 

Puppy with older dogCharley is Joanna’s dog. Puppy Frankie is Charley’s.

 

Obviously, we believe in the value of the personal at work. Since we’re lucky enough to work from home, that includes our pets. But even if you don’t work virtually, maybe now you can convince your boss to open the door to pets. (Just keep the dark chocolate hidden away.)

 

photo of Michelle Kelly

Michelle Kelly, CEO (Chief Enjoyment Officer)

P.S. We’ve shown you ours. Now we’d love to see yours! Email us about your experiences with pets at work, and feel free to send a photo.


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