I started bringing my dog Amy into the office shortly after adopting her. Being an older dog, with a laid-back personality and an affinity for people, I had a feeling she would be a good fit with the team. To be quite honest, I had other, more selfish, reasons for wanting her with me at work: the forlorn expression on her face whenever my husband and I tried to leave each morning was tugging at my heartstrings, and I wanted to do whatever I could to wipe that furrow from her brow.
She has water, toys, and a bed by the window in my office, and usually spends her days hanging out near me, ears pricked at the bird activity unfolding in the trees outside. She’ll roam throughout the building paying visits to her friends throughout the day – no doubt spurred on by the treats waiting for her in other people’s offices (in fact, I very quickly had to enact a strict “one treat per person per day” policy, and limit that to a small group of people, to keep her weight under control).
I know that Amy is mentally and physically more stimulated in the office than she would be if she stayed at home: she’s happier around people, and it’s good for her arthritis to be moving around. She’s a relaxed creature anyway, and quite a slow one, so the pace of office life suits her – not to mention she has excellent table and toilet manners, as befits a good coworker.
Why am I telling you about Amy? Why does it matter that there is often a large, furry creature skulking by the office kitchen waiting for a crumb or two to drop, or that I regularly hear the name ‘Amy!’ being called out by colleagues as they greet her in the morning?
Studies – many of them – have shown that there are several health and psychological benefits of stroking a dog. It can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, mediate anxiety and depression, and even combat some heart problems. My less scientific evidence shows something similar: several colleagues have remarked that having Amy around makes them less stressed and less prone to distraction. Her presence reminds you about the good, simple things in life, and emphasizes the human side of all of us. How could you sustain a petty conflict, or blow a problem out of proportion, with a tail wagging nearby?
Bringing my dog to work is part of a wider cultural story. It would be a very different tale if my organization wasn’t one that prioritized wellbeing, and if I wasn’t part of a supportive and nurturing team. Amy’s presence is calming and motivating – but this is partly because our office environment is fairly casual, and there is a foundation of trust and openness amongst the staff. It wouldn’t make sense to simply invite a dog into an office and assume it will make people calmer and more productive: it works in this case because it is integrated into a holistic office culture of camaraderie.
At its best, in the right environment, bringing a dog to work becomes a piece of the well-running organizational machine: it reflects, inspires, and becomes integrated in, the positive and productive nature of the workplace. For me, Amy reminds me that work is but one facet of a rewarding life – and this helps me to approach my job with a clear and level head.