Dogs in the workplace and how they benefit employees and the working environment. Mushroom Group entertainment agency employees Alice Mouritz and Julia Nitert withTed in the boardroom at work. #australiasbestfriend Embargo February 23. Picture: Ian Currie
Dogs in the workplace and how they benefit employees and the working environment. Mushroom Group entertainment agency employees Alice Mouritz and Julia Nitert withTed in the boardroom at work. #australiasbestfriend Embargo February 23. Picture: Ian Currie

Why dog-friendly offices are the way of the future

STAFF turnover, absenteeism, stress, morale, work productivity - if you are an employer looking to improve all of this and more, according to new research, there is a simple solution: let your business go to the dogs.

With companies nationwide recognising the costs of employee turnover are sky-high and retaining good staff is key, more and more Aussie businesses are coming up with new ways of enticing top talent to stay put but in working remotely, job sharing, flexible hours or welcoming furry friends into the workplace.

One of this ever-expanding number implementing dog-friendly office policies is independent music and entertainment leaders, the Mushroom Group.

Mushroom Group entertainment agency employees Alice Mouritz with Ted and Julia Nitert with Tucker at work. Picture: Ian Currie
Mushroom Group entertainment agency employees Alice Mouritz with Ted and Julia Nitert with Tucker at work. Picture: Ian Currie

"It's almost an unwritten rule working here that everyone loves dogs!" Melbourne-based Mushroom Labels publicity director Julia Hill said.

"Roughly 75 per cent of employees either own a dog, or have a flatmate who owns one, and there's usually a few dogs in the office each day at least."

The policy has been in place at Mushroom for about five years and operates on a calendar booking system whereby each dog (including Julia's 13-year-old springer spaniel, Doe, and three-year-old cocker spaniel, Peggy) gets a separate office area so they can have their own space.

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According to the RSCPA, in Australia there are an estimated 4.8 million pet dogs - it is roughly 20 dogs for every 100 people, and the numbers are increasing annually.

So with more and more Australians choosing to bring pet pooches into their homes it stands to reason the number of workers looking for employers open to bringing furry friends into the office is also rising.

The benefits patting pooches bring in terms of releasing feel good chemicals - and lowering anxiety and increasing happiness as a result - are well-known.

Dogs in the workplace and how they benefit employees and the working environment. Picture: Ian Currie
Dogs in the workplace and how they benefit employees and the working environment. Picture: Ian Currie

US studies have shown employees who brought their dogs to work felt significantly lower stress levels, and even co-workers who were not accompanied by their own pet felt the presence of the dogs had a positive impact on their productivity.

Additional surveys have supported these findings with companies noticing employees worked longer and were absent less often when four-legged friends were around.

"They help put things into perspective," Ms Hill said.

"When a dog smiles or does something hilarious, the deadline you were stressing about before makes you realise that it's not the end of the world.

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Whilst the music industry is hectic and busy, it's not life or death! Dogs help create a friendly and more relaxed atmosphere."

Another big plus point for pooches in the office is the sense of community, teamwork and camaraderie they help foster.

"As soon as you bring a dog in everyone smiles," Ms Hill said.

"The dog is a talking point and you'll find yourself chatting with people from other teams you'd never normally meet. They create a nice atmosphere and make everyone feel happier."

Research shows dogs in the office lead to people taking more breaks, which shows greater productivity. Picture: Ian Currie
Research shows dogs in the office lead to people taking more breaks, which shows greater productivity. Picture: Ian Currie

Research has shown dogs in the office also lead to people taking more breaks, which in turn has shown to greater productivity and job satisfaction.

"You get a stream of regular visitors from other parts of the office looking to pat the dogs, to play for a few minutes, or to take them for a walk," Ms Hill said.

"It definitely helps you clear your head and re-energise."

But with the positives are a few potential negatives too. Starting with the simple fact that not everyone is a dog lover.

While you and the majority of your colleagues might find your precious pup adorable, not everyone will feel the same.

Some workers may be allergic and then there is the risk of a dog not being well-behaved - barking, whining, running amok - all of which could prove disruptive.

Julia Hill with Doris (front left), Tess Whitford and Buzz (rear left), Eloise Granville, Tucker (on table) and Ted (front right). Picture: Ian Currie
Julia Hill with Doris (front left), Tess Whitford and Buzz (rear left), Eloise Granville, Tucker (on table) and Ted (front right). Picture: Ian Currie

"Some people might think there's the risk of being distracted, but that's very much dependant on the dog, I guess," Ms Hill said.

"All the dogs in our offices are trained and pretty well-behaved."

But regardless of the (few) possible downsides, both Ms Hill - and the rest of the team at Mushroom - cannot imagine going back to a workplace before the pet-friendly policy.

"I wouldn't like it," she said.

"And I'd definitely think twice about working for a company that doesn't allow dogs.

"Dogs are so often home alone and I think it's important that they're socialised.

"It's good for them, and it's good for their human co-workers too!"



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