Five health benefits of an #officedog

Dash the amazing eye-browed schnauzer is my furry shadow. He walks into work with me, follows me into meetings and waits outside while I go to the toilet. He eyeballs me while I sit at my desk, presumably making sure I am doing enough work, and every day he is beside himself as he rushes to the door to meet the postman, who seems to be just as onboard with the unlikely love affair as his canine companion.

Dash is a hit with the whole office. He spends his days being loved by the beautiful Oysters, all the time maximising his ‘cute’ factor to ensure he is squeezing everything he can out of every stroking opportunity. Clients choose our office as a meeting location, so they can give our four-legged mascot a belly rub.

But it’s not all one way – we are certainly getting something out of all this too. Aren’t we?

1) Take a break

BD (before Dash) I hardly ever took a lunch break. I don’t know why: maybe it’s my newspaper background which saw breaks as a luxury reserved for Christmas, or the fact I was scared to go into town in case I went on one of those “accidental” shopping trips.

Now I have no choice but to go for a walk before the sleeping schnauzer starts leaking onto the new rug. And I think it’s made me more productive. It gives me a chance to think through any problems outside the confines of the office and gives my brain the chance to straighten itself out.

Professor Kimberley Elsbach, who studies the psychology of the workplace, said never taking a break actually reduces your ability to be creative.

“It exhausts your cognitive capacity and you are not able to make the creative connections you can when your brain is rested,” she said.

What’s more, it adds to my daily step total making it much easier to hit that magic 10,000 mark. So maybe I can have a KitKat with my afternoon cuppa?

2) Take a deep breath

I know it’s a cliché, but we actually quite like going to work. We all get on amazingly well and we all love what we do: using our skills to make a difference to the lives of people with chronic conditions. But that’s not to say it’s not stressful. There are endless deadlines to meet, legal and regulatory demands to navigate, maths to get right, sales to bring in, expectations to manage. The list goes on.

A study in the International Journal of Healthplace Work Management found having a dog around reduced stress. Playing with a dog increases levels of oxytocin, also simplistically known as the “cuddle hormone”, and decreases production of the stress hormone, cortisol.

So, when the proverbial fan is being struck, head to the dog for a quick cuddle before firing back that angry email!

3) Healthy hearts for everyone

In the USA, the Centres for Disease Control and the National Institute of Health have both found that people with pets have healthier hearts. They have lower blood pressures cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which all impact on the risk of having a heart attack.

These benefits are thought to be linked to the reduction in stress rates associated with having Fido around, which extend to everyone in the office.

Healthy hearts, healthy work force!

4) Dog satisfaction = job satisfaction

Virginia Commonwealth University studied a manufacturing company where people were allowed to bring their pets to work. They found dogs had a positive impact by boosting morale, employee performance and overall job satisfaction.

A meta-analysis in the BMJ in 2005 found job satisfaction was strongly associated with a reduction in mental/psychological problems in terms of burnout, depression and anxiety.

So next time I turn around to find a colleague fully immersed in the dog bed, fluffy head on lap and the words “just taking a Dash break” on their lips, I need to remember not to laugh, but remember this is a serious intervention. Good morale boosting, Dash…

5) Reduce sick days

Ok, so this one is a little ironic: I am writing this from under a duvet as I have been struck down by the mucus monster and thus exiled from the office, but apparently dogs can help prevent illness.

As we disinfect more and more, we are killing more and more germs and while some may see this as a good thing, it means our bodies cannot do what they are programmed to do. Put simply, If we are not exposed to germs, our immune systems cannot learn how to defend us from them.

But dogs (and cats) are covered in germs, and the more bacteria that gets into us the more our immune systems can cope with. This “dog-related biodiversity” has been studied and people with pets have been found to get less severely and less frequently ill than those who do not.

And by Dash coming to work, he is sharing all his “biodiversity” with the rest of the Oyster gang.

You’re welcome.

Published on: November 4, 2016