Dogs and workplace wellbeing: here’s what you need to know
Leaving their pups at home while going to work is a daily reality and a cause of stress for many people. But at UBC, some employees have been able to take advantage of the several dog-friendly offices on campus.
That is the case of Stephanie Lim, Administrative Assistant for External Relations, Campus + Community Planning, who brings her two-year old Yorkie, Leia, into the office a few days a week.
“Leia has brought so many benefits into our office,” she says. “In addition to stress relief and ‘puppy therapy,’ her friendly demeanour has everyone more socially engaged. Nearly everyone at C+CP takes a few minutes out of their day to visit her, and everyone leaves smiling.”
Dogs are loved by many around our campuses and even Santa J. Ono, UBC president, signs his pooch up as a therapy dog around exam time. At UBCO, a recognized dog therapy program Building Academic Retention Through K9s (B.A.R.K.) has shown very positive results in its ability to reduce student’s self-reported levels of stress.
Dog therapy isn’t just for students. It can provide many benefits for faculty and staff, such as creating a more vibrant workplace as aimed by our Focus on People 2025 framework. However, before welcoming a pet into your office, consider all the challenges and benefits.
Benefits and challenges
According to a review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2017, some of the important points to consider are:
- Zoonoses (e.g. external parasites, viruses, bacteria, and fungi; can be largely mitigated with regular deworming and vaccinations);
- Slip, trip and fall hazard;
- Dog bites and fear of dogs;
- Perceptions of dogs can differ appreciably across different societies and cultures;
- Care and welfare concerns for the animal.
- Social support;
- Stress reduction, which leads to better task performance;
- Increased social interaction among colleagues;
- Improved dog welfare.
While creating your office’s dog policies, it is very important to engage employees in the process. If the team agrees to give it a try, consider a slow introduction first, along with setting clear expectations for pet behaviour, notices for office visitors, and pet free zones (e.g. staff kitchen). When everyone is on board with the idea, introducing a dog to your office will bring a lot of joy into people’s lives, help reduce stress and foster social connection. Similar to C+CP, many dog-friendly offices and buildings at UBC follow the university’s general guideline when it comes to welcoming dogs in the office. Others have gone further and created more detailed policies. That’s the case for places like the School of Population and Public Health, the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation (VPRI), and the Faculty of Forestry.
Want to find out more?
If you are interested in providing the benefits of dogs in the office to your staff, VPRI’s Greg Martyn would be happy to share his learnings. Also, Tim Herron, Engagement and Events Manager, Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, oversees dogs in his building and is happy to be contacted with questions.
If you’d like to spend some time with dogs outside, UBC Athletics and Recreation is hosting a puppy walk on March 18, 2020. You can contact Emily Jarvis for details. On their first puppy walk, in October 2019, over 50 folks from the UBC community showed up to walk with the dogs!
Article by: Melissa Baker, Manager, Nutrition and Wellbeing, Student Housing and Community Services
Photo credit: Monique Rodrigues