Collaboration and pets

I was very amused to see the write up of an experiment on collaboration at work in last week's Economist. Two researchers "wondered in particular if the mere presence of a canine in the office might make people collaborate more effectively. And, as they told a meeting of the International Society for Human Ethology in Madison, Wisconsin, on August 2nd, they found that it could."

Once I did some work with Petsmart and discovered that employees are allowed to bring their pets to work. It was an eye-opener for me at that point and then I forgot about it. But the Economist article brought back the notion that pets at work might have some benefits.

I'm not sure how many companies along pets (mainly dogs I guess) but I did Google "pets at work" out of curiosity and discovered several news reports on the topic. Here's one from CBS News :
Bringing dogs to work might make good business sense, according to one survey that found 46 million Americans would work longer hours if they were allowed to bring their furry companions into work with them.

So what used to be unheard of is now becoming almost commonplace. About 20 percent of American companies, including giants like Google, allow dogs in the office. The theory is that dogs reduce stress – and that's good for business.

Here's another one from petpublishing:

In a recent nationwide survey, the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA) found the solution to easing corporate nerves and enhancing office efficiency was as easy as placing a pet in your work environment. Having pets in the office created a more productive work environment among 73 percent of the participating companies. Also of interest, 27 percent of the participating companies had a decreased absenteeism rate.

These findings and more were uncovered when APPMA surveyed companies nationwide that allow pets including dogs, cats, fish, small animals, reptiles and birds in the workplace. The survey revealed that the many health-enhancing benefits of pet ownership – including reduced blood pressure, lower stress levels, and improved overall emotional and physical health – also translate in an office environment. All of the companies polled, 100 percent, agree that having pets in the workplace relaxes employees.

None of the articles I skimmed mentioned dogs and collaboration – so maybe that's a new field of investigation (in fact the Economist article made that point) – but several mentioned pets and workplace stress reduction (probably a lot cheaper than an Employee Assistance Program).

I also discovered that the next "Take your dog to work day" is Friday June 24, 2011. But since I don't have a dog and don't intend to get one that's one event I won't be participating in.

I'm now wondering if there'll be a surge of interest in increasing productivity and collaboration through pet interaction? Will companies set up their own kennels? Then thinking of companies in which to do research I wondered whether police dog handlers are more productive, collaborative, and less stressed that police with just their guns? What about the comparison of police dog handlers with mounted (on horseback) police? And so on.

The whole notion of pets at work is one that I find very odd but I'm not sure why I do. My observation is that pet owners spend more time discussing the pets than anything else (unless they have children) and I'm not convinced that pets in the office would increase productivity. I can see how they would increase collaboration but only if collaboration is a euphemism for talking about pets. I remain to be convinced – but I won't be going down that route if the first step is to become a dog owner myself.