The Effects of Emotional Support Dogs in the Workplace

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Today, people are more stressed-out than ever before. On the heels of a now (mostly) under-control global pandemic, rising inflation, increased household expenses, and more, we’re all feeling a bit overwhelmed.

With the vast majority of us spending time in the workplace, employers have a unique opportunity to improve morale, reduce anxiety, enhance mood, and develop a culture that not just values employees, but supports them in unique and beneficial ways.

In this guide, we explore the use of emotional support dogs in commercial settings, and how ‘man’s best friend’ can transform the workplace in positive ways.

The Issues in Modern Workplaces

Employee Perception of Employer 

We’ve all seen the headlines. The lack of employee willingness to return to work has media companies shouting ‘The Great Resignation’ from the rooftops. Today, employees have started to turn the tables on companies, rebalancing the power dynamic that traditionally favored employers.

The ‘Great Resignation’ movement has left a gaping hole in the demand-supply ratio of open positions and the people who are willing to fill them. Spurred largely by the failure of employers to treat their people fairly, today, employers have to fight to earn their talent. This is a stark contrast to what used to be a dynamic where employees fought to ‘sell’ themselves to employers as the best candidate for the job.

Anxiety and Depression

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, just over 19% of all American adults (or 40 million Americans) have some type of anxiety disorder. For those bad at math, that’s nearly 1 out of every five adults.

Similar to anxiety, depression is a major mental health epidemic according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, with around 9.5% of all American adults suffering from a depressive illness each year.

A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health determined that both anxiety and depression can have a major negative impact on workplace performance, productivity, concentration, accuracy/mistakes, absenteeism, workplace satisfaction, and more.

Job Satisfaction and Happiness

Job satisfaction is tied closely to happiness and a feeling of fulfillment in life. It is an increasingly important aspect of work for the modern employee. Studies have shown that job satisfaction impacts overall psychological well-being, a sense of identity, overall health and well-being, and happiness.

All of which can either contribute to a better workplace with motivated employees who care about the work they do, or a demotivated workforce that dreads the day-to-day grind.

As you might imagine, job satisfaction is also tied heavily to employee performance, making job satisfaction a ‘win-win’ for employees and employers alike.

The Role of Emotional Support Dogs

Emotional support dogs have long been used in a broad range of use cases to offer a myriad of therapeutic benefits for individuals.

Providing emotional support, comfort, love, care, and companionship, rank among the leading roles of emotional support dogs.

Dogs are called man’s best friend for a reason. They love people often unconditionally, never judge, and can sense when you’re stressed, depressed, anxious, scared, or angry and need a little puppy love.

This makes emotional support dogs a great fit for the workplace and other commercial settings. In fact, according to a survey published by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, close to 20% of employers across the United States currently allow animals in the workplace.

But why? Turns out, having dogs in the workplace can have a significantly positive effect that benefits employees and employers alike.

The Positive Effects of Emotional Support Dogs in the Workplace

Reduced Absenteeism

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published a study in 2016 looking at the cost of absenteeism for employers. This looked at absenteeism for any reason (not just sickness). What they discovered is that absenteeism is responsible for a $2 billion loss yearly, with absenteeism costing large employers between $17-$286 and small employers $16-$81 per employee per year respectively.

Emotional support dogs have been shown to dramatically reduce workplace absenteeism due to stress, anxiety, depression, and more.

Higher Employee Retention

People form strong emotional bonds and attachments to dogs. The same holds for emotional support dogs in the workplace. Such animals improve morale, boost spirit, offer emotional support and love, and so much more. All of which translates into higher employee retention rates.

Improved Morale and Culture

Animals bring a lot of joy to our lives. We have all felt the love of a dog for a human, and it turns out, there’s some actual science behind why these furry friends make us feel so good.

A study published in the Journal of Hormones and Behavior revealed that interactions with dogs have been shown to increase levels of the feel-good bonding hormone oxytocin. This can lead to improved morale within the office, and create a welcoming, warm, inviting, and enjoyable atmosphere to work in.

Reduced Stress in the Workplace

One of the main roles of an emotional support dog is to reduce emotional stress. According to the CDC, studies have shown that emotional support dogs have been shown to decrease levels of stress and anxiety.

A Healthier, Happier Workforce

Studies have shown that bonding with emotional support dogs is linked to several key health benefits including but not limited to:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Reduced feelings of isolation or loneliness
  • Less anxiety
  • Reduced symptoms of PTSD
  • More opportunities for exercise and socialization
  • Better cognitive function
  • And more…

Commercial Spaces that Can Benefit from Emotional Support Dogs

Emotional support dogs aren’t just good for the workplace and employees, they can be a fantastic value add for customers, patients, and more.

Commercial Businesses and Organizations That Benefit From Emotional Support Dogs Include:

  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Nursing homes
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Office spaces
  • Retail businesses
  • Non-profits
  • And more

Final Thoughts About Emotional Support Dogs in the Workplace

What was once perhaps an outlandish proposition, is today an incredible opportunity and a growing trend. More businesses are adopting policies that allow animals and pets in the workplace, with some going so far as to have their emotional support dog as a valued member of the organization.

A multitude of studies have demonstrated just how beneficial emotional support dogs can be in and out of the workplace.

Perhaps now is a great time to re-evaluate your workplace policies and explore the many ways having an emotional support dog on staff could be beneficial for everyone.

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