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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to present a preliminary study of the effect of the presence at work of employees' dogs on stress and organizational perceptions. Design/methodology/approach A pre‐post between‐group design with repeated measures was used to compare differences between employees who bring their dogs to work (DOG group), employees who do not bring their dogs to work (NODOG group), and employees without pets (NOPET group) on physiological and perceived stress, perceptions of job satisfaction, organizational affective commitment, and perceived organizational support. Findings Combined groups scored significantly higher on multiple job satisfaction subscales than the reference norm group for these scales. No significant differences were found between the groups on physiological stress or perceived organizational support. Although perceived stress was similar at baseline; over the course of the day, stress declined for the DOG group with their dogs present and increased for the NODOG and NOPET groups. The NODOG group had significantly higher stress than the DOG group by the end of the day. A significant difference was found in the stress patterns for the DOG group on days their dogs were present and absent. On dog absent days, owners' stress increased throughout the day, mirroring the pattern of the NODOG group. Originality/value This paper provides the first quantitative exploratory study of the effects of pet dogs in the workplace setting on employee stress and perceptions of satisfaction, support and commitment.
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PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF EMPLOYEE’S DOG PRESENCE ON STRESS
AND ORGANIZATIONAL PERCEPTIONS
Contact person:
Dr. Randolph T. Barker
School of Business, Snead Hall
Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, Virginia 23284-4000
USA
rtbarker@vcu.edu
Dr. Janet. S. Knisely
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
School of Medicine
Virginia Commonwealth University
USA
Dr. Sandra B. Barker
Professor of Psychiatry
School of Medicine
Virginia Commonwealth University
USA
Dr. Rachel K. Cobb
Postdoctoral Fellow
School of Nursing
Virginia Commonwealth University
USA
Dr. Christine M. Schubert
Assistant Professor of Biostatistics
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, AFIT/ENC
Air Force Institute of Technology
USA
Author note: The authors would like to thank the leadership and study participants of
Replacements, Ltd. for their participation in this research project.
Barker, R. T., Knisely, J. S., Barker, S. B., Cobb, R. K., Schubert, C. M. (2012)
Preliminary investigation of employee's dog presence on stress and
organizational perceptions, International Journal of Workplace Health
Management, 5:1 pp. 15 - 30
PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF EMPLOYEE’S DOG PRESENCE ON STRESS
AND ORGANIZATIONAL PERCEPTIONS
Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to present a preliminary study of the effect of
employees’ dogs presence at work on stress and organizational perceptions.
Design/methodology/approach A pre-post between-group design with repeated
measures was used to compare differences between employees who bring their dogs to
work (DOG group), employees who do not bring their dogs to work (NODOG group),
and employees without pets (NOPET group) on physiological and perceived stress,
perceptions of job satisfaction, organizational affective commitment, and perceived
organizational support.
Findings Combined groups scored significantly higher (p<0.0001) on multiple job
satisfaction subscales than the reference norm group for these scales. No significant
differences were found between the groups on physiological stress or perceived
organizational support. Although perceived stress was similar at baseline; over the
course of the day, stress declined for the DOG group with their dogs present and
increased for the NODOG and NOPET groups. The NODOG group had significantly
higher stress (p<0.005) than the DOG group by the end of the day. A significant
difference (p<0.02) was found in the stress patterns for the DOG group on days their
dogs were present and absent. On dog absent days, owners’ stress increased
throughout the day, mirroring the pattern of the NODOG group.
Research limitations/implications The small sample of employees who volunteered
for study participation limits the generalizability of these findings. Future organizational
research can utilize both the design and preliminary findings to assess the wellness
impact, benefits and limitations of pets in the workplace.
Practical applications Preliminary findings suggest pet dogs in the workplace may
buffer the impact of stress during the workday for their owners and may also contribute
to higher job satisfaction for all employees in the organization, regardless of dog or pet
ownership.
Originality/value This paper provides the first quantitative exploratory study of the
effects of pet dogs in the workplace setting on employee stress and perceptions of
satisfaction, support and commitment.
Keywords Pets in the workplace; employee stress, support, commitment, satisfaction
Paper type Research paper
Introduction
Organizations continue to be aware of the importance of employee satisfaction,
commitment, and perceived organizational support (Allen and Meyer, 1990, Aubé et al.,
2007, Barker, 2005, Eisenberger et al., 1986, Meyer and Allen, 1997, Spector, 1997).
Many factors can influence employee perceptions of the workplace (Abbott, 2008,
Falkenburg and Schyns, 2007, Foote et al., 2005, Jain et al., 2009, McShane and Von
Gilnow, 2010). A growing trend to allow pets in hospitals, nursing homes, and other
health care facilities is spreading to companies that report positive anecdotal reactions
by employees and customers. The reactions are consistent with human-animal
interaction research supporting the role of pets as a form of nonevaluative social
support which may extend to the workplace to enhance interpersonal interactions,
positively affect employee morale and turnover, and reduce stress reactions.
Pet ownership has been associated with a number of positive health outcomes,
including increased survival one-year after a heart attack (Friedmann and Thomas,
1995), fewer doctor visits (Headey, 1999, Siegel, 1990, Headey et al., 2002), less
loneliness and greater social support (Headey, 1999), and emotional closeness and
support (Barker and Barker, 1988, Barker et al., 1997). An increasing number of studies
support the premise that pets, by providing a nonevaluative form of social support,
buffer the impact of stress for their owners. In a study measuring cardiovascular stress
reactivity following a stress task completed in the presence of a pet dog or a close
friend, researchers reported lower physiological indicators of stress in female dog
owners when the pet was present (Allen et al., 1991). In a related study, investigators
studied cardiovascular stress reactivity in married couples with and without pets and
reported couples with pets had lower blood pressure and heart rate at rest and lower
systolic blood pressure and heart rate during a mental stress task (Allen et al., 2002).
Similar benefits were reported in a randomized controlled trial in which hypertensive
stock brokers starting medication to treat hypertension were randomly assigned to
acquire a pet dog or cat or to a wait list control (Allen et al., 2001). After six months,
those owning pets performed better on mental stress tasks and demonstrated lower
physiological response to stress compared with the control group.
Using cortisol as a measure of physiological stress, other researchers found a
significant reduction in salivary cortisol in healthcare providers after as little as 5
minutes interacting with an unfamiliar therapy dog (Barker et al., 2005). A more recent
study explored response patterns of multiple indicators of physiological stress in dog
owners interacting with their own or an unfamiliar therapy dog following a stress task
(Barker et al., 2010). Results showed similar patterns consistent with stress following
the mental stress task and relaxation during and following the dog interaction. Of
particular interest was the similarity in relaxation patterns seen whether adults
interacted with their own or an unfamiliar therapy dog.
While an increasing number of organizations are permitting pets in the workplace, an
extensive literature review identified only one published study on the effect of pet
presence on employees or the organization. Using an author-developed questionnaire,
the authors surveyed employee perceptions in several small companies permitting pets
(Wells and Perrine, 2001). The overwhelming majority (84%) of those bringing pets to
work in these companies consisted of business owners or managers. The most strongly
endorsed benefit of having pets in the workplace was perceived lowering of stress,
although some endorsement of improved health and organizational satisfaction were
also noted. Aside from this one survey (not conducted within the organization setting)
little is known about the benefits of permitting pets in the workplace to employees or to
the organization. If the buffering effect of pets on stress reactions found in other settings
extends to the workplace, pet presence may serve as a low-cost, wellness intervention
readily available to many organizations and may enhance organizational satisfaction
and perceptions of support.
The importance of research investigating organizational satisfaction, organizational
commitment, and organizational support is well documented (Abbott, 2008, Fischer and
Sousa-Poza, 2009, Meyer and Allen, 1997, Michael et al., 2009, Ramlall, 2008, Rayton,
2006, Rego et al., 2004, Van Knippenberg and Sleebos, 2006, Way and MacNeil, 2006,
Siegel, 1990). Research extending the study of perceived organizational support and
commitment to their relationship to psychological well-being, revealed affective
organizational commitment to be a mediator of the positive relationship between
perceived organizational support and well-being (Panaccio and Vandenberghe, 2009).
Aubé, et al (2007) emphasizes the importance of the relationship between employee
perceived support and affective commitment to the organization. They note the need
for organizational structures that increase perceived control and, thereby contribute to
employees’ affective commitment.
Muse et al (2008) were also interested in the relationship of organizational support and
commitment and the well-being aspects of positive organizational behavior. They report
that in supporting employees with work-life benefits, employees taking part in and
appreciating these benefits “is part of a positive exchange between the employee and
employer. This exchange is positively related to employees' feelings of perceived
organizational support and affective commitment to the organization and reciprocation
in the form of higher levels of task and contextual performance behaviorspp 29.
Related to well-being, Fischer and Sousa-Poza (2009) found an important relationship
between job satisfaction and subjective health measures, suggesting that employees
with higher job satisfaction levels feel healthier and are more satisfied with their health.
While a significant amount of interest and research has focused on these organizational
variables, and accumulating evidence supports the health benefits of human- animal
interaction, there is a lack of organizational research combining these foci. The current
study was conducted with the following purposes in mind.
Purposes
The purpose of this study was to investigate employees’ stress and organizational
perceptions within an organization setting that permits pets in the workplace. The
specific aims were to:
1. assess employee base physiological stress levels and perceived stress during the
workday;
2. assess employee perceptions of job satisfaction, organizational commitment and
support;
3. compare differences in physiological and perceived stress and organizational
perceptions between dog owners who bring their dogs to work, dog owners who choose
not to bring their dogs to work, and non-pet owners and;
4. compare employee organizational perceptions with established norms.
Since pet attitude was found to be negatively associated with physiological and self-
reported stress in an earlier study (Barker et al., 2010) , it was included as a moderating
variable in the current study.
Setting
The study took place at Replacements, Ltd., a service-manufacturing-retail company
located in Greensboro, North Carolina, United States, which employs approximately 550
people. For over 15 years, the company has permitted employees to bring their dogs to
work. Approximately 20 to 30 dogs are on the company premises each day. The study
design and protocol were approved by the investigators’ Institutional Review Board for
the Protection of Human Subjects.
Methods
Subjects
All study participants were full-time employees working the day shift. After obtaining
permission from the organization’s leadership team, three groups of employees were
recruited for this study: employees eligible to bring their dogs to work under company
policies (DOG group); employees who own dogs but don’t bring them to work (NODOG
group), and employees who do not own pets (NOPET group). As an incentive to
complete all aspects of the study, all participants completing the study were entered into
a random drawing of two $100 gift cards at study completion.
A target sample size of 30 per group was determined from power analysis using salivary
cortisol as the exemplar. A sample size of 30 subjects per group is adequate for
detecting between group differences with 80% power at alpha = 0.05. Study inclusion
criteria were 21 years of age or older, ability to understand and speak English, capability
to provide informed consent, and planned presence at work during all study days.
Employee participation was strictly voluntary and their decision whether to participate
had no impact on their standing within the organization.
Measures
Pet Attitude Scale (PAS). The Pet Attitude Scale (Templer et al., 1981) was used to
assess general attitudes towards animals. The 18 items rated by respondents indicate
current agreement with statements related to pets, such as “I would like to have a pet in
my home”, using a seven-point Likert- scale ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly
disagree.” Items correlate at least 0.50 with the total Scale (Templer et al., 1981).
Cronbach’s alpha coefficient is reported to be 0.93.
Employee Organizational Perceptions. The Employee Organizational Perceptions
Survey (EOPS), named by the first author for ease of reference for the participants,
consisted of three published scales totaling 53 items that measure 1) affective
commitment, 2) perceived organizational support, and 3) job satisfaction.
The eight-item Affective Commitment Scale developed by (Allen and Meyer, 1990),
assesses employee emotional attachment, identification, and involvement in the
organization. Items are evaluated using a seven-point Likert- scale ranging from
strongly agree to strongly disagree. Reported internal consistency is relatively high with
Cronbach alphas ranging from .77 to .88.
The Perceived Organizational Support Scale, developed by Eisenberger, et al (1986)
includes seventeen-items that assess employee’s perception of the organization’s value
of the employee and the organization’s action affecting the employee’s well being. Items
are evaluated using a seven-point Likert- scale ranging from strongly disagree to
strongly agree. Internal consistency is relatively high with Cronbach alphas ranging
from .74 to .95 (Moorman et al., 1998; Wayne et al., 1997).
The Job Satisfaction Survey (Spector, 1985; Spector, 1997) and its nine subscales
consist of 36 items that measure employee satisfaction in job facets of communication,
pay, promotion, supervision, benefits, rewards, operating procedures, co-workers and
work itself. A six-point Likert- scale ranging from disagree very much to agree very
much is used to evaluate the items. Internal consistency is high with a reported
Cronbach alpha of .89 (Blau, 1999).
Stress Visual Analog Scale (VAS). A VAS was used to collect subjects’ present levels
of self-reported stress (SVAS). Stress on the SVAS is defined as one’s response to
demanding or unpleasant stimuli or conditions. The scale was 15 cm long and anchored
at each end with descriptors of “none” to “the most severe imaginable.” VASs are
widely used self report measures with high levels of compliance and acceptable
reliability and validity in assessing a wide range of health outcomes; including pain
(Ahles et al., 1984), anxiety (Barker et al., 2003), feelings (Aitken, 1969), and mood
(Ahearn, 1997). The authors have used similar scales successfully in assessing the
effect of animal-assisted therapy on stress in adults (Barker et al., 2010).
Salivary Cortisol. Cortisol is well known to increase with stress and reflect
hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis reactivity and, thus, is often selected as a measure
of physiological stress. A single salivary cortisol sample taken at awakening has been
shown to be as good as taking multiple samples throughout the day in providing an
indicator of overall cortisol production (Yehuda et al., 2003). The saliva collection
system is termed the Filter Assay System for Testing of Saliva (FAST-Saliva). Grade 42
Whatman filter papers were used for saliva collections and involved placing a pre-
labeled filter paper in the mouth, allowing it to become saturated for 20 seconds, and
returning it to its pre-labeled glassine mini-bag for storage.
Demographic information was requested at the end of the survey, followed by two
questions to gather perceived impressions of productivity related to dog presence, one
question worded for those who bring their dog to work and the other for those who do
not bring their dog to work or do not have pets but are exposed to dogs in the
workplace. A final open ended request for other general comments about how dogs in
the workplace affect them was included at the end of the survey.
Procedures
Replacements, Ltd. is a fast paced for profit work environment and during discussions
with management, the researchers were made aware of limitations on employee time
availability for the study. The study design and procedures were developed with these
limitations in mind. All company employees were recruited by a written invitation from
the researchers, disseminated through company communications. The investigators
sent recruitment letters to all employees inviting those interested in participating in the
study to attend informational meetings that were conducted on site by three (3) of the
study investigators one week prior to initiating the study. All of the eligible employees
(those working on-site each day during the study) attending the informational meeting
agreed to participate with the exception of dog owners who did not want to leave their
pets at home on two days as the study required. Informed consent was completed at
the meeting and participants were classified according to group.
The study took place over a period of one work week in the company setting. On
Monday of the study week, the investigators met with each of the three (3) groups and
collected written demographic information, administered the Pet Attitude and
Organizational Perceptions Surveys, and provided written instructions and materials for
collecting saliva samples and completing the Stress Visual Analog Scale (VAS). A
pager was then assigned to each participant. Instructions were given to participants as
to how to use the pager during the study. The pagers were programmed to prompt
subjects to complete the VAS at 4 specific times during the study days (between 7:30
and 8:30 AM, 10:30 11:30 AM, 1:30 2:30 PM, 4:00 5:00 PM). Participants were
instructed on how to collect saliva samples, 30 minutes after awakening, and not to eat,
drink, or smoke prior to collecting the specimen.
Subjects in the DOG group were instructed to bring their dog to work on Tuesday and
Thursday (study days 1 and 3) and not bring their dog to work on Wednesday and
Friday (study days 2 and 4). DOG group participants were instructed to collect saliva
samples on each of the 4 study days and to bring the samples to work in the specimen
envelopes provided. In order to make comparisons with the DOG group on dog present
days, the NODOG and NOPET groups were instructed to collect saliva on Tuesday and
Thursday. All three groups were instructed to complete the VAS when paged on their
respective study days. Saliva samples and completed VAS were delivered to a
researcher on site each study day. At the end of the last study day, a random
participant drawing was held for the two gift cards with the names of all subjects
completing the study. Although offering gift cards could potentially bias subject
participation, this was minimized by not announcing the gift card drawing until
employees interested in the study were already present at the initial meeting.
Analyses. Salivary cortisol was eluted from the filter paper using measured volumes of
Salimetrics assay buffer. The filers were precisely pre-marked and cut at the minimal
saturation point to enable a standard saliva-saturation area for elution process. Cortisol
concentration in eluted samples was determined using a commercially available high
sensitivity ELISA kit (Salimetrics, LLC). The manufacturer reports that the assay
accurately measures cortisol in the range of 0.19-49.66 nm/l.
Summary statistics (means, standard deviations) were computed for all measures
collected. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to test for significant differences
between the three groups. The null hypothesis was that the mean response was the
same between all three groups. Responses considered separately were: affective
commitment, job satisfaction, perceived organizational support, salivary cortisol, and
stress. Statistical significance was evaluated at the overall 0.05 level. If statistical
significance was found in at least one of the responses (i.e., not all means are equal),
Tukey’s pairwise comparison procedure was used to determine which of the three
means differed and to estimate to what extent they differed. Analysis of Covariance
(ANCOVA) was used to adjust the analysis for appropriate covariates such as Pet
Attitude Scale and pet ownership, and repeated measurements on the Stress VAS in
order to examine trends over time within the same group as well as between groups.
Comparisons to norm values for job satisfaction subscale scores and perceived
organizational support were made using T-tests, corrected for multiple comparisons, for
each scale and subscale score computed from the study sample, overall and by group
(DOG, NODOG, and NOPET). Comparisons on Self-Reported Stress between groups
(DOG, NODOG and NOPET) as well as comparisons within DOG group (days with and
without Dog) were made by combining the data for each group into an average VAS
from both collection days: days 1 and 3 for DOG (with dogs at work), days 2 and 4 for
the DOG group (when they were without their dog), and days 1 and 3 for the NODOG
and NOPET groups. Random effects regression models were applied in order to
account for the repeated measurements with the VAS score as the dependent variable.
Predictor variables were group, time of day (time) and the interaction between group
and time. If the interaction was not significant, it was removed from the model.
Marginally significant (p-value between 0.05 and 0.10) differences were also noted. All
analyses were conducted using SASv9.2 software.
As this was an exploratory study, basic content analysis was used to categorize
employees comments regarding dogs in the workplace as positive (improve mood,
relieve stress) or negative (disruptive, interfere). Employee responses were transcribed
verbatim and two reviewers independently coded each item. If a comment did not
conform to a predetermined category, it was coded as other/specify (Denzin and
Lincoln, 1994).
Results
Seventy-six subjects completed the study, one of whom withdrew after the death of her
dog, thus analysis was completed on 18 DOG, 38 NODOG and 19 NOPET subjects
(total n=75). Approximately two-thirds (63%, n = 46) of subjects were female. Two
individuals did not report gender. Approximately 59% were high school educated or had
some college and the other 41% had at least a bachelor’s degree. Average length of
employment (tenure) at the company was approximately 10 years in each of the 3
groups. Participants job functions represented in the study were company president,
inventory, customer service, restoration/manufacturing, sales, human resources, clerk,
information systems, administration, legal, community relations, purchasing, and
development. There were no significant differences between the DOG, NODOG, and
NOPET groups in terms of age, education, or tenure.
Perceived Productivity. Table 1 shows the results of self-reported impact of dog
presence on productivity. For those bringing their dogs to work, about half reported the
dog important to their productivity with the remaining half reporting a neutral response.
The majority of dog owners not bringing their dogs to work and non-pet owners also
reported a neutral response. However, approximately the same number (20%) in both
groups reported the dog helpful or harmful to productivity.
Content Analysis. The content analysis revealed mostly positive comments such as
“pets in the workplace can be a great bonus for employee morale…” “having dogs here
are great stress relief.” “Dogs are positive; dogs increase coworker cooperation” and
“dogs relieve stress”. Negative comments included “Some dogs are disruptive”,
“Allergies problems for some”, “dogs should be well behaved and quiet”. Other
comments noted that sometimes it is inconvenient to bring dogs and if more than one
dog is in the home, owners feel guilty bringing only one.
Attitudes towards Pets. The PAS demonstrated high reliability in this sample
(Cronbach’s alpha = 0.93). There was a significant difference between groups on the
PAS (p=0.0009). As might be expected, workers in the NOPET group had significantly
lower PAS scores than those in the DOG group (mean=92.7 vs 108.6, p=0.0141) or the
NODOG group (mean=92.7 vs 110.1, p=0.0008). There were no significant differences
in PAS between the DOG and NODOG groups.
Employee Organizational Perceptions. Each scale of the Employee Organizational
Perceptions Survey demonstrated moderate to high reliability (Chronbach’s alphas for
perceived organizational support = 0.82; affective commitment = 0.78; and job
satisfaction = 0.94). There were no significant differences between the DOG, NODOG,
and NOPET groups on any of these scales.
Reference norms for job satisfaction subscale scores (Spector, 1985) and perceived
organizational support (Eisenberger et al., 1986) are shown in Table 2. Significant
differences were found between the study participants and norm group with study
participants scoring higher overall for operating procedures, rewards, benefits, promotion,
pay, communication and overall job satisfaction. These trends are reinforced in the
NODOG and DOG groups, whereas the NOPET group only showed a significant increase
over reference norms in the job satisfaction subscale of pay. There were no significant
differences between the study sample and norm group in perceived organizational support
or the job satisfaction subscales of coworkers, supervision, or the work itself.
Self Reported Stress (VAS). Although all participants had been identified as “first shift”
employees, the individual times of arrival to and departure from work varied by as much
as 2 hours or more during the study. A total of 51 (7%) of the 717 completed VAS
ratings were omitted from analysis because they were completed outside of work hours.
Mean values for VAS between groups are presented in Figure 1 and Table 3. There
was a significant interaction between time and group (p=0.0112). In general, the DOG
group had the lowest VAS scores, the NOPET the next highest and the NODOG group
had the highest VAS scores. Whereas there were no significant differences in mean
VAS scores throughout the day for the DOG group or the NOPET group, there was a
significant increase in VAS over the course of the day for the NODOG group. For the
NODOG group, the increase in VAS from baseline to Time 2 was 9.4 (p=0.0234), to
Time 3 was 13.4 (p=0.0031) and to Time 4 was 19.6 (p=0.0002). There were no
significant differences between groups at baseline or at Time 2, although the NODOG
group had a marginally significantly higher VAS by about 12.9 points than the DOG
group (p=0.0772) at Time 2. At Time 3, the NODOG group had a significantly higher
VAS score by 19.8 points than the DOG group (p=0.0120) and by the end of the day
(Time 4), the NODOG group had a VAS score about 23.2 higher than the DOG group
(p=0.0052). Although the NOPET group had higher scores, there were no significant
differences between the NOPET group and DOG group at any time point. By the end of
the day (Time 4), there was a marginally significant difference between the NOPET
group and the NODOG group in which the NODOG group was about 13 points higher
than the NOPET group (p=0.0703).
Mean values for VAS within the DOG group are presented in Figure 2. Although VAS
scores were similar at baseline (Time 1), over the course of the day, VAS scores rose
throughout the days when the dog was not present as compared to days when the dog
was present. There was no significant interaction between time and days with versus
without the dog. However, there was a significant difference between days with and
without the dog present.. On days without the dog, the VAS score was about 6.8 points
higher than on days with the Dog (p=0.0209).
Early Morning Cortisol. Comparisons between groups (DOG, NODOG and NOPET) as
well as comparisons within DOG group (days with and without the dog) were made by
averaging the data for each group from both collection days (days 1 and 3 for DOG
Group with dogs at work, days 2 and 4 for the DOG group when they were without their
dogs, days 1 and 3 for the NODOG and NOPET groups). Mean values for salivary
cortisol for the DOG and NODOG groups were similar. The NOPET group had higher
cortisol levels (mean = 0.276, s.d. = 0.111, n = 19) than that for the DOG (mean =
0.243, s.d. = 0.110, n = 17) and NODOG (mean = 0.244, s.d. = 0.135, n = 38) groups,
but from one-way analysis of variance, there were no significant differences between
groups for these cortisol levels. Further, there was no significant difference in cortisol
expressions within the DOG group between their days with their Dog (mean = 0.243,
s.d. = 0.110) and without their Dogs at work (mean = 0.242, s.d. = 0.105).
Discussion
Results show that most employees in this study perceive dog presence on productivity
neutrally. However a small group (approximately 20%) of those without pets in the
workplace perceives dog presence as hurting their personal productivity, a percentage
about equal to the number who perceives dog presence as beneficial. Although most of
the content analysis revealed positive comments regarding dogs in the workplace, some
insight into the negative perceptions of dog presence may be provided by the narrative
comments of some employees . For instance, animals in the workplace policies
regarding dog behavior, cleanliness, and noise are practical considerations
organizations could explore in minimizing any negative impact and maximizing positive
impact on productivity for those without dogs.
No significant differences were found between the groups on the Perceived
Organizational Support Scale. Scores did not differ from the reference norm group for
this scale. It appears that for these groups a perception of organizational support
exists. This potentially presents as noted in Muse et al (2008) a positive organizational
behavior setting and well-being can be enhanced. Perhaps members perceived they
were valued by the organization through the various programs and structures in place
and therefore no significant differences were found to other similar norm referenced
groups (Eisenberger et al 1986; Moorman et al, 1998; Wayne et al, 1997). It is not clear
from these results what effect the policy for allowing pets in the workplace has in this
area. In reviewing the narrative comments from employees in this study, many noted
the appreciation they had for allowing this policy to be in place. A practical application
for organizations to consider would therefore be determining if this added incentive
could be incorporated into their employee benefit packages.
The combined employee groups in this study scored significantly higher on multiple Job
Satisfaction subscales than the reference norm group (Spector, 1985, Spector, 1997).
This higher job satisfaction may relate to the length of time employees have remained
with the company, an average of 10 years for each of the groups. While no significant
between group differences were found, the non-pet owning group only differed from the
norm group on the subscale of pay, rating pay more favorably. The dog owning
employees appear to be the driving force behind the more favorable perceptions of job
satisfaction, scoring significantly higher on subscales of communication, benefits,
rewards, promotion, operating procedures, as well as pay. While having the option to
bring one’s dog to work may directly relate to rewards and benefits and perhaps
operating procedures, the relationship to communication, promotion, and pay appear
less clear. Unique dog-related communication in the workplace may contribute to higher
scores in this area. For example, employees without a dog had been observed
requesting to take a co-worker’s dog out on a break. These were brief, positive
exchanges as the dogs were taken and returned. Mail deliveries are sometimes made
by an employee with a dog in the mail cart, likely appealing to dog owners and creating
an opportunity for brief exchanges. Top management is also known to walk around
employee areas in the company of a dog, possibly creating a more relaxed climate for
interaction with dog owners (Barker, 2005).
The higher scores in communication are consistent with published studies in the
human-animal interaction literature documenting increased interaction associated with
dog presence (Barker, 2005, Hunt et al., 1992). Further investigation of dog presence
on communication in the workplace is needed to determine if the effect on quantity and
quality of communication enhances or detracts from work performance. The
relationship between dog owners and the higher scores on promotion are intriguing.
Perhaps the more positive perception of the organization permitting pets by dog owners
carries over to other areas, such as promotion and pay. However, pay was also
perceived by non-pet owners as more favorable than the reference norm group and
may not be related to dog ownership.
Both physiological and self-reported stress was assessed in this study. Salivary
cortisol, collected on awakening as an indicator of base (24-hour) stress levels,
revealed no significant differences between groups or within the dog group on days with
their dogs at work compared with days without the dog at work. There was wide
variation in the times that participants awoke each morning (with one reporting
awakening at 3:30 A.M) and collected their salivary cortisol, which could also have
influenced results. While some studies have reported lower baseline physiological
stress in dog owners compared with non-dog owners based on cardiovascular
measures (Allen et al., 2002), we found no supporting evidence in this small sample
based on salivary cortisol on awakening. Self-reported stress patterns throughout the
work day revealed generally lower stress levels for employees with their dogs present,
followed by non-pet owners. Stress patterns for dog owners who did not bring their dogs
to work appeared to consistently rise during the day and their stress ratings were
significantly higher than the dog present group by the afternoon (Time 3) and at the end
of the day (Time 4). Interestingly, self reported stress levels on the days the dog present
group left their dogs at home mirrored those of the group not bringing dogs to work and
these differences were significant. These results may reflect an increase in concern
about pets at home as the length of time away increases, missing pets more as the day
progresses, or lessening of a possible stress buffering effect of pets as the length of
time away from the pet increases. These results are consistent with published studies
supporting a stress buffering effect of pet presence (Allen et al., 2002, Barker et al.,
2010, Tudor et al, 2007) that may extend to the workplace.
The limitations of this study include the small convenience sample of volunteers who
participated and the inability to blind subjects to the study focus on dogs in the
workplace. It is also important to note that not all employees who bring their dogs to
work participated in this study, some for the expressed reason that they could not make
arrangements to leave their dogs at home. Therefore, there were some pets present in
the organization on study days that participants (DOG group) did not bring their dogs to
work, maintaining the normal pet present climate of the organization throughout the
study and maximizing our ability to assess the effects of the presence of one’s own dog
in the DOG group. Based on power analysis, we had hoped to complete 30 subjects
per group for a total of 90 subjects. However, 76 employees met all of the study
inclusion criteria and were enrolled, with one dropping out due to a dog’s death.
Further studies in large organizations are needed to replicate the findings of this study.
This is the first study to explore the effect of pet presence at work on pet-owning
employees’ stress and further research with larger sample sizes is needed to replicate
these findings and to investigate the impact on other outcomes, such as absenteeism,
tardiness, and productivity. Additional research could also investigate the impact of
different employee shift assignments on perceptions of support, commitment,
satisfaction and stress levels between dog owners and non-dog owners. An interesting
area of study would be to compare dog owning employees who telecommute or are
home-based with those in traditional workplace setting on such outcomes as stress and
organizational perceptions. There are no empirical studies investigating the benefits for
pet owners who work from home. While productivity is frequently the focus of
discussion regarding telecommuting, it would be interesting to determine if pets
influence such productivity. Systematic investigations would be difficult, however with
numerous potential covariates such as spouse and/or children in the home, privacy of
work space, and the nature of the work itself. It would also be important to investigate
the welfare of the dog in the work setting as well. Does the dog respond positively or
negatively to this setting and the myriad of environmental stimuli it is exposed to during
the work period? Future research combing more in-depth qualitative analysis with the
quantitative analysis could provide additional understanding of questions to be asked
and context of results.
Table 1. Perceived impression of dog presence on productivity for the three study
groups
Item
Dog
n %
No dog
n %
No pet
n %
Total
n %
How important bringing a dog is to
personal productivity
Very important
3
17.7
3
17.7
Somewhat important
5
29.4
5
29.4
Neither important or unimportant
9
52.9
9
52.9
Somewhat unimportant
0
0.0
0
0.0
Very unimportant
0
0.0
0
0.0
How dogs in the workplace affect
personal productivity
Very productive
2
5.6
4
26.7
6
11.5
Somewhat productive
5
13.9
0
0.0
5
9.6
Neither help nor hurt my productivity
22
61.0
8
53.3
30
57.7
Somewhat hurt my productivity
5
13.9
2
13.3
7
15.4
Very much hurt my productivity
2
5.6
1
6.7
3
5.8
Table 2. Comparison of three study groups means and standard deviations (s.d.) with
reference norm values for Perceived Organizations Support (POS) total scores and
Job Satisfaction total scores and subscores.
Dog
No Dog
No Pet
Total Sample
Reference
Values
Scales
N
Mean
(Std)
N
Mean
(Std)
N
Mean
(Std)
N
Mean
(Std)
Mean
(Std)
Average POS
18
4.88
(0.55)
37
4.89
(0.88)
19
4.67
(0.97)
74
4.83
(0.83)
4.81
(0.93)
Job
Satisfaction
15
150.60
(21.04)
36
155.28*
(26.30)
17
147.76
(28.87)
68
152.37*
(25.76)
133.1
(27.9)
Communi-
cation
17
17.18***
(3.23)
38
18.29*
(3.65)
19
16.53
(4.15)
75
17.52*
(3.74)
14.00
(5.00)
Pay
18
15.22*
(3.04)
38
15.61*
(4.76)
18
14.50**
(3.84)
75
15.20*
(4.15)
10.5
(5.1)
Promotion
18
14.11
38
14.34*
19
13.32
76
14.03*
11.5
(3.69)
(3.66)
(4.96)
(3.97)
(5.1)
Supervision
18
17.94
(4.39)
37
18.46
(4.80)
19
18.16
(5.28)
75
18.20
(4.76)
19.9
(4.6)
Benefits
18
18.61*
(3.68)
38
18.29*
(3.79)
19
17.8
(5.64)
75
18.27*
(4.25)
13.1
(5.0)
Rewards
16
17.13**
(3.28)
38
15.87***
(4.20)
19
16.34
(4.22)
74
16.21*
(4.01)
13.4
(5.1)
Operating
Procedures
18
14.72
(3.34)
38
15.18*
(3.60)
18
14.44
(4.41)
75
14.91*
(3.69)
12.5
(4.6)
Coworkers
18
17.39
(3.33)
38
19.05
(3.20)
18
18.28
(3.94)
75
18.40
(3.46)
18.8
(3.7)
Work Itself
18
20.00
(2.77)
37
19.43
(3.96)
19
20.11
(3.57)
75
19.75
(3.55)
19.2
(4.4)
* p < .0001
** p < .0004
***p < .0009
Table 3. Stress Visual Analog Scale means and standard deviations (s.d.) for the three
study groups
Dog
No Dog
No Pet
Time
n
Mean (Std)
n
Mean (Std)
n
Mean (Std)
1
1
17
24.82 (22.30)
36
26.66 (21.58)
18
28.67 (22.19)
2
2
18
22.61 (16.99)
37
36.21 (20.37)
19
32.13 (21.66)
3
3
18
19.69 (14.31)
38
39.53 (26.24)
18
30.83 (19.60)
4
4
17
22.10 (21.41)
38
45.70 (31.34)
19
32.71 (23.10)
1
Time 1 = 7:30 8:30 AM
2
Time 2 = 10:30 11:30 AM
3
Time 3 = 1:30 2:30 PM
4
Time 4 = 4:00 5:00 PM
Figure 1: Mean Stress Visual Analog Scale (VAS) Scores
1
during the workday
2
for the
three study groups Higher scores reflect higher stress levels.
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
45
50
1 2 3 4
Time
VAS
Dog
no Dog
no Pet
1
VAS Scores combined for each group into an average for VAS from both collection
days (days 1 and 3 for DOG (days with dogs at work), NO DOG, and NO PET groups.
2
Time 1 = 7:30 8:30 AM; Time 2 = 10:30 11:30 AM; Time 3 = 1:30 2:30 PM; Time
4 = 4:00 5:00 PM
Figure 2: Mean Stress Visual Analog Scale (VAS) Scores
1
during the workday
2
for the
DOG Group on study days with their dog and days without their dogs
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
1 2
3
4
Time
VAS
With Dog
Without Dog
1
VAS Scores combined on days with dogs at work (With DOG) and days dogs were not
present at work (Without Dogs)
2
Time 1 = 7:30 8:30 AM; Time 2 = 10:30 11:30 AM; Time 3 = 1:30 2:30 PM; Time
4 = 4:00 5:00 PM
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