24 September 2020
While we recognise that pets can have a large ecological footprint1 and as a society we should probably be looking at reducing the number of pets we have, particularly large ones, there are benefits to having pets we are only just beginning to truly understand.
Pets are being used as psychiatric service dogs to reduce anxiety and be alert to triggers of psychiatric situations to help calm an owner.2 ‘Court dogs’ are starting to be used to help witnesses remain calm when giving stressful evidence.3 Dogs, (and other pets), in other words can be beneficial to our emotional wellbeing, helping to keep us calm in stressful situations.
Stress is a major problem in the workplace. According to the National Health and Safety Commission work related stress accounts for long stretches of absenteeism in Australia and over $133.9 million is being paid in workplace stress claims in a single year.4 Workplaces are beginning to recognise that having pets at work can reduce these levels of stress. So, while the ecological footprint of pets may be high, their social and health benefits within the workplace alone, may be good reason to make a compromise.
Beneficial evidence is beginning to emerge on how pets can impact wellbeing at work. They remind employees to pause, take a break through short walks and a little playtime providing small distractions to allow mental breaks and reduce stress. Some studies have shown that not only do pets have calming effects but can also induce more cordial and productive staff.5
With these types of benefits in mind offices are designing their interiors (and exteriors) to be pet friendly and encourage these ‘fur kids’ to work. Bark & Co. for example have a dog treehouse in their NYC offices, as a great place for pets (and humans alike) to take a break. The US game developer Zynga have provided an interior play space for their pooches complete with fake grass and Mars Petcare’s new HQ in Tennessee includes “…a WiFi-enabled dog park, indoor dog play areas with full-time “pet sitters,” automated pet water bowls, furniture with pet-friendly fabric, and more.6
Back in Australia, it has been the creative and new industries such as IT, media, fashion, advertising and design who are the early adopters to pets at work. However commercial landlords are starting to get used to the idea of allowing pets into buildings and employers are also beginning to see the benefits.
It should however be noted that not everyone is comfortable with animals. Allergies, emotional fears and anxieties can be reasons not to have pets at work for some businesses.
However, while we integrate strategies of biophilia, yoga rooms and 24 hour ‘restaurants’ in our workplaces to improve the social and wellbeing aspects of sustainability, it may also be worth considering our furry friends.
Bought to you in association with Technical Protection Systems. Proud Sponsor of 2020 Sustainability Awards.
Commercial Architecture (Small)
 https://www.smh.com.au/environment/sustainability/how-big-is-your-pet-s-environmental-paw-print-20190830-p52mbz.html, accessed 18/2/20
 https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-is-an-assistance-animal/, accessed 18/2/20
 https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-17/training-the-next-generation-of-court-dogs/10616912, accessed 18/2/20
 https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/work-related-stress, accessed 18/2/20
 https://appliedpsychologydegree.usc.edu/blog/the-benefits-of-bringing-pets-to-work/, accessed 18/2/20
 https://www.workdesign.com/2019/09/mars-petcare-friendly-workplace/, ac cessed 18/2/20