June 22, 2020

Bring Your Dog to Work

June 26th2020 is this year’s Bring Your Dog to Work day – a concept that many would have believed would never have got off the ground. However, since its inauguration in 2014 it has grown into something that has caught the attention of many celebrities and last year reached the #1 Trending spot on Twitter. #BringYourDogToWorkDay will no doubt be trending again this year and the campaign run by https://www.bringyourdogtoworkday.co.uk/ will likely have their most successful year yet. Helped by the number of people working from home during the Coronavirus Crisis of course!

But have we all gone barking mad or is there some benefit to employees and organisations that extends beyond raising much needed funds for charity?

According to Dogs For Good, based in Banbury, research has been carried out into the health benefits of humans being around dogs. As well as more exercise which leads to improved physical health there is a significant improvement in mental health and wellbeing. Dogs are being used in the community to bring people together to combat isolation and loneliness and the feedback has shown it to make a real difference to peoples’ lives.

Dogs are also recognised as being true companions to people of all ages and there has been many reports in the media about care homes bringing in pets to improve the mental health and wellbeing of elderly residents. Pets As Therapy, a national charity, provide therapeutic visits to care homes, hospitals and hospices. They have conducted studies that prove people’s wellbeing improves when around dogs and other animals.

So how does this translate into the workplace and how can employees and organisations benefit from initiatives such as the Bring Your Dog to Work Day? The Blue Cross state “Having a pet in the workplace really can help to reduce stress levels and heart rates – even stroking a dog can lower blood pressure.”

Mental Health and Wellbeing is high on most business leaders’ agendas these days. Stories about mental health are never far from the news and it is increasingly seen as a reason for sickness absence. According to the Office for National Statistics Mental Health conditions were amongst the top 4 reasons for absence from work in 2018 with around 12.4% of all absences being attributed to mental health.

 

Labour Force Survey

The CIPD reported in their 2020 Health and Well-being at Work survey that 3 out of 5 organisations had seen an increase in reported common mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, amongst employees in the past 12 months. It is unlikely therefore that the ONS graph above will be see any improvement when they release the next set of data.

The evidence that dogs improve mental health and wellbeing is overwhelming. The Bring Your Dog To Work campaign is a fun way to highlight peoples’ love for their canine companions and to share the love amongst colleagues whilst raising money for charity. This will be a really positive experience for the majority of staff but can also boost the wellbeing of the business too.

Mental heath is at the core of performance and as an HR Practitioner you will already understand the cumulative effect of individual performance on the overall performance of the organisation. Employee Engagement has been high on the agenda since 2008 when David MacLeod and Nita Clarke researched the cause and effect of engagement for the report Engage for Success published in 2009 having been commissioned by the Peter Mandelson, the then Secretary of State. Any initiative that encourages positive Employee Engagement, should be considered with enthusiasm. Of course, not all initiatives are viable or desirable, but a day when some staff can bring their dog to work has little negative impact if properly organised. We will look at how it can be implemented well (and safely) below. In addition, the charitable aspect can be showcased as part of the organisation’s efforts towards their Corporate Social Responsibility. The community in which we work is becoming an increasingly important stakeholder to the business as people have much more power and influence in a world of social media than ever before and an organisation’s brand can be positively or negatively impacted overnight.

To summarise, employees can benefit greatly from being introduced to a pampered pooch at work and the organisation will likely see an improvement in the mental health and wellbeing of their staff which will improve performance and possibly their reputation at the same time. What’s not to love? But wait, before you invite lots of canine companions to the office on 26thJune there are some important things to think about and rules to put in place.

Firstly, it is important to check that there are no members of staff that are allergic to dogs, or particularly afraid of dogs, as this might make it inappropriate to implement in your workplace. Secondly, it is important to assess how many dogs can safely be accommodated in the space available and if this can be an open invitation or numbers must be limited. Once you have established if you can participate it is strongly advised that it is properly managed to control any risk.

The Blue Cross recommend the following top tips for taking your dog to work:

  • Keep your dog under proper control at all times.
  • Check insurance and health and safety implications and make sure that any requirements are followed.
  • Carry out a simple risk assessment. A risk assessment is simply deciding what could go wrong and ensuring you’ve taken sufficient precautions to prevent or minimise any risks. If your workplace employs five or more people, the risk assessment must be in writing.
  • Check your own insurance and/or pet insurance policies and ensure it provides adequate cover for damage to third party property or injury to third parties (including fellow employees).
  • Make sure your dog is housetrained, but be prepared for little accidents.
  • Your dog should be in good health and not suffering from any sickness.
  • Watch out for signs of stress – is your dog panting a lot or licking his lips?
  • Make sure there’s a quiet and comfy place for your dog to relax.
  • Ensure they have access to fresh water.
  • Don’t forget walkies!

https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/bringing-your-dog-work

Theresa Mayne – DPG online CIPD course facilitator and HR subject matter expert.