Dog and owner bonding at work

It’s no secret that most American workers are seriously stressed out. They’re under a lot of pressure as they face challenges such as increased professional demands and financial challenges, compounded by job insecurity and excessive hours. Ongoing stress not only affects happiness and well-being, but it also can negatively impact health and cause burnout.

Considering all these factors, it’s easy to see that when it comes to creating a healthy and happy life in and out of the workplace, Americans are in a tough spot. In fact, the United States ranks 30th out of 38 countries in work-life balance.

The good news? Our pets can help. While there are lots of ways to lower stress in the workplace, bringing a pet into the office is one of the best ways feel calmer and more balanced during the work day.

The following are six ways that bringing a pet with you on the job can help reduce your stress level.

1. Pets Fulfill Emotional Needs in Busy Workplaces

Despite being around people all day at work, it’s not uncommon to feel lonely or isolated in the office. Animals are reassuring, they help to boost our self-esteem and often give us a much-needed laugh during stressful times. Petting an animal also fulfills our innate need to connect. The best part? Interacting with an animal can even help encourage us to communicate more kindly with one another—something that’s often scarce in busy offices.

2. Proximity to Pets Has Physiological Benefits

Pets can help fulfill our emotional needs, but their mere presence can have a positive effect on our health. You may be surprised to learn that petting or even looking at a dog or cat can lower blood pressure—an important benefit in a stressful office. People who own pets also typically have better cardiovascular health and exercise more frequently. If you sit in the office all day, taking the dog out for a quick walk can be extremely beneficial.

3. Studies Show That Interacting With Pets Has a Similar Effect as Some Pharmaceuticals

Just about everyone wants to avoid taking medications if they can. What if something as simple as interacting with a dog could be as helpful as taking pharmaceuticals? Studies show that something as simple as petting a dog can increase oxytocin while reducing cortisol, the “stress hormone.” Pets are natural mood-stabilizers and can make you feel calmer as you move through your day.

4. A Pet Can Make Your Coworkers Feel Better Too!

Even people who don’t bring their own pet to the workplace can benefit from someone else’s. Having an animal in the office can give everyone a dose of the stress-busting benefits while encouraging more positive dialogue. In many offices, colleagues get so caught up with work that they rarely take the time to get to know each other as people. Having pets in the office can foster stronger bonds and teamwork by helping to build relationships between coworkers and lowering everyone’s stress levels. Improved relationships in the office can even boost productivity!

5. Pets Are Great Listeners

If you’ve ever felt that you just needed someone to listen while you talk, then there’s no better friend than a dog or cat. They’re usually happy to pay attention to you and offer non-judgmental support. Since they can’t talk back, they make great listeners when you don’t need advice, just a friendly ear during a stressful workday.

6. Pet Ownership Promotes Physical Activity

One of the reasons that pet owners are generally healthier is that they have more motivation to exercise. If you bring your dog to work, you’ll have to take them out a couple of times a day, and maybe play some impromptu games together. Getting more exercise will make you more focused and productive at work, an added bonus that should further help to reduce your stress levels.

Bringing Pets to the Workplace: There Are Medical and Legal Grounds

United States law allows individuals who physicians diagnose with certain conditions to bring emotional support animals (EPAs) to work. However, unless the animal is a designated service animal, an employer will typically need to grant permission.

Although some stores and vet offices have a resident cat, the easiest animal by far to bring into the office is a dog. Some workplaces already have pet-friendly policies in place, which enhances the overall environment and makes both dogs and their people happier.

If your office doesn’t yet allow pets, however, see if you can talk to your employer about the benefits of implementing new pet-friendly policies or about allowing you to bring an EPA or therapy dog into the office. It could make your days just a whole lot better.