By Amy Kardel
Most business owners recognize the value of a thriving and healthy corporate culture. Happy employees are not only more productive, but they help create the kind of environment that I want to have to best serve both clients and welcome great new hires. Many of us chose to live on the Central Coast because we place a high value on our quality of life, but working in the IT business support and services can be stressful, even in San Luis Obispo.
I happened across a simple and fluffy solution to the question of how to help create a vibrant, healthy, and happy corporate culture six months ago when I adopted a 20 pound Tibetan spaniel mix from SLO County Animal Services. Falkor—a doppelganger for his namesake in The NeverEnding Story. Six months into having an office dog has an undeniably positive impact on the people and environment around him and helped our team deliver better computer business support.
I’ve identified three positive impacts to corporate culture as a result of bringing my dog to work:
1. Dogs have been scientifically proven to decrease stress. A 2001 study printed in AHA Journals, concluded that the presence of a dog decreased blood pressure as it related to stress. There is no denying that working as an IT service provider is stressful, even in San Luis Obispo. Computer problems at work are stressful, no matter who you are, and people working in the IT field are exposed to that stress on a daily basis. Merely interacting with a dog increases the production of oxytocin, a hormone that helps decrease stress, while decreasing the production of the stress hormone called cortisol. The long-term health benefits to reduced stress and lowered blood pressure are significant, and should lead to greater overall health and reduced company costs.
2. Dogs create opportunities for interaction. Even the best boss can be intimidating simply by virtue of being in a position of authority. I want my employees to feel comfortable talking to me, whether about work-related issues or simply chatting about a great restaurant or funny TV show. With Falkor by my side, even the most introverted employee is likely to stop to pet the dog, which often results in lengthier conversations. Dogs are something many of us have in common—a point of shared warmth and humanity—affording us an opportunity to get to know each other better. The dog also puts computer networking job candidates at ease during interviews.
3.Dogs get you moving. When I am focused on a task, I tend to remain stationary at my desk until that task is complete, however long that takes. Sitting for long periods of time without movement has been connected to any number of health issues including and muscle degradation. Employers should also be aware that sitting for long periods of time without moving also decreases an employee’s ability to think clearly, as movement enables fresh blood and oxygen to flow through the brain, increasing cognitive function. Taking Falkor for a walk, maybe with a team member, or indulging him in a game of tug of war, is not only beneficial for him but it is enormously advantageous for me. Most business owners and managers, whether in IT or another industry, might feel compelled to work long hours without giving themselves a break because sometimes that is what is necessary to succeed. Having a dog in the office is a very necessary incentive to get us up and moving. And it is really fun to walk to the pet store and get a treat for him. (His favorite store is Tails Pet Boutique on Higuera.)
Of course, there are other advantages, such as the joy of having my canine companion throughout the workday and the satisfaction of not having to come home to shoes that have been chewed by a furkid with separation anxiety. But for San Luis Obispo companies hoping to improve corporate culture and help employees stay healthy, bringing your dog to work is pawsibly the best decision you could make for yourself and your employees.