Mental Health Foundation backs campaign to get more pets into NZ workplaces to reduce stress

In an article for the New Zealand Herald, Brittany Keogh writes that New Zealand bosses who want a more engaged, productive and healthy workforce have been told to let staff bring their four-legged friends to work.

Keogh writes, “The Mental Health Foundation is backing a campaign to get more pets into New Zealand workplaces due to the health benefits of animal companionship.”

“Chief executive Shaun Robinson has announced the foundation will support calls by pet food company Purina for more organisations to become pet-friendly as studies showed having pets in the office reduced workers’ stress and increased productivity.”

“People who work in offices with pets also report finding their colleagues friendlier and more approachable.”

“Purina estimates almost 500,000 Kiwis work at pet-friendly organisations – more than one in 10 of employees at businesses with more than 200 staff said their workplace had a pet-friendly policy.”

“But spokeswoman Jennifer Chappell said the company, which encourages its employees to bring their pets to work, wants even more businesses to get on board with the initiative.”

“Having pets at work helps us to relax, laugh more and get some fresh air during the day. It highlights our core belief that pets and people are better together, including in the workplace.”

“According to a survey conducted by Purina last year, 69 per cent of 1776 Kiwi workers who worked in pet-friendly offices said having pets there had a positive impact on their workplace.”

“Almost half of the respondents said the leading benefit for employees and employers was reduced stress.”

“The results of Purina’s survey echo that of many scientific studies.”

“Several studies since the early 1980s have explored the health impacts of having pets and the body of research on pets in the workplace has grown significantly in the last five years.”

“A study by Virginia Commonwealth University academics in 2012 found employees of a manufacturing company who brought their dogs to work had lower levels of stress hormones in their saliva during the day than owners who left their dogs at home and those who didn’t have pets.”

“According to a report published by the Society of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, Matt Christensen, a PhD candidate at Central Michigan University, and co-authors Chris Honts and Stephen Colarelli reached a similar conclusion in their 2012 study.”

“When they split 120 student participants into groups of four – some with dogs present and others without – and asked them to make a 15-second ad and slogan for a fictional product and then assess their team satisfaction, they found groups who had dogs with them reported feeling more satisfied.”

“The SPCA is also getting behind the move to have more animals in offices.”

“Andrea Midgen, chief executive of the society’s Auckland branch, said pets also benefited from coming to work with their owners.”

“They enjoy interacting with other animals and other people. It stimulates them from a brain perspective so they’re not feeling bored or irritated.”

“I’m a little bit of a workaholic and so when I bring [border collie] Max to work I need to take him out to the toilet and have regular breaks – that’s good for him and it’s good for me.”

“Mandy Jacobsen, director of Auckland-based modelling agency Red 11, became a supporter of having pets: in the workplace 12 years ago when she got her apso-bichon cross Harry and wanted him with her during the day.

“I truly think every organisation should consider allowing responsible pet owners to bring their pets to work,” she said.

“If you ensure there is food, water, a place to sleep and regular breaks outside there is truly no downside.”

“Three years ago, when one of her employees said he missed his pet in London, Jacobsen encouraged him to get a puppy and bring it to work.”

“The staff member is now accompanied by his shitzu-bichon cross Jed every day.”

Scot Marchant-Ludlow and Andrea Midgen’s pets at work checklist

• Have a water bowl
• Bring your dog or cat’s favorite toy
• Make sure you bring a lead and some doggy-doo bags if you’re a dog owner – you’ll need to take them out for a toilet break
• Get your pet vaccinated before bringing it to the office.

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