The pandemic is placing unusual stress on everyone, including those in the workplace. Employees are experiencing unprecedented changes in their personal lives, as well as their work lives. Employers may be struggling to find ways to support their employees as workplace wellness takes on a new dimension. Therapy dogs may be the answer. Their presence in the workplace can help reduce employee stress, increase work satisfaction, and lead to greater staff retention.

“In consideration of the discernable cost of employee turnover,” says Scott Liles, president and chief pet insurance officer for Nationwide, “adding pet-friendly benefits, such as allowing pets in the workplace or offering pet health insurance as a voluntary benefit, can provide significant savings to a company’s bottom line.”

What is a Therapy Dog?

Therapy dogs undergo a testing and certification process in order to be able to participate in animal-assisted activities in different locations such as nursing homes, schools, and hospitals. These dogs can bring joy and levity to the organizations that they visit.

Why Have Therapy Dogs at Work?

Allowing employees to bring pets to work is incredibly beneficial, but it’s not feasible for many employers.

Therapy dogs provide the same benefits within a more structured framework. “Therapy dogs are often a better fit for companies,” says Jane Miller, Executive Director of Healing Companions. They are trained for their work and are always under the care of their handler. They also visit sites on a set schedule, and employees don’t have to attend to their needs throughout the day, which can be a distraction.

Study findings show that:
• Employees’ average stress level scores fell about 11% among workers who had brought their dogs to work, while they increased 70% for those who did not (Virginia Commonwealth University, 2012)
• 90% of employees who work in pet-friendly environments feel highly connected to their company’s mission, are fully engaged in their work, and will recommend their employer to others (Nationwide/HABRI, 2018)
• Simply petting a dog can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease the production of the stress hormone cortisol (Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2021)

How do therapy dogs benefit employees exactly?

Therapy dogs can help employees feel more resilient at dealing with stress and lessen their reactions to stressful situations. Employees who are healthier take fewer sick days, need lower health insurance premiums, and contribute better at the workplace than those who fall sick often or suffer chronic health issues. Overall, the introduction of a therapy dog in the workplace allows for productivity, an improvement in moral, encourages teamwork, and promotes a healthier environment in the workplace.

In a matter of minutes, petting a dog decreases cortisol levels and increases oxytocin. That translates to less stress and anxiety and improved mood. Stress level scores dropped 11 percent among workers who brought their dogs to work, according to a study by Virginia Commonwealth University. In contrast, stress levels increased 70 percent for those who did not have their pets at work.

In addition, co-workers find their workday to be more satisfying once they interact with therapy dogs. These interactions have meaningful physiological and emotional effects on employees — both of which influence attitudes toward the workplace. A study by Nationwide/HABRI shows that 9 out of 10 employees are highly bonded to their employers when pet-friendly benefits are offered.

For more information about mental health in the workplace check out this article.

Healing Companions "Dogs at Work" Program

“Decreasing employee stress and increasing employer loyalty should be extremely important to companies across the country, regardless of the type of business they manage,” Jane says. Keeping this in mind, Healing Companions is currently offering educational resources to corporations about the benefits of therapy dogs. Healing Companions is excited to educate employers about how therapy dogs can provide present and ongoing support to employees. Also, post-COVID, Healing Companions can act as a headhunter and consultant for employers who would like to incorporate therapy dogs into their wellness programs.

Learn More about "Dogs at Work"

Jane Miller, the Executive Director of Healing Companions, is a nationally and internationally recognized expert in this area of training as well as the use of Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) and Emotional Support Animals (ESAs). She welcomes discussions with employers about the ways in which therapy dogs can have a positive effect on employees in general.  She can also provide comprehensive education to corporate leaders on the benefits of Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) in the workplace for an employee that may be struggling with mental illness as well as the differences between Therapy Dog visits and PSDs and ESAs.  

If you would like to improve the workplace along with your employees’ lives by introducing them to a Therapy Dog visit, schedule a consultation with Jane now to discuss your project.

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