Between juggling customers's needs, offering in-store advice and working on orders of all kinds, Tilla Abel certainly has her work cut out for her as a designer at Miner's Den Jewelry. But as stressful as her work week can be, Abel knows that every Saturday she can count on her co-worker Billy Jean, a 4-year-old French bulldog, to balance even the busiest of days.
"Not only does she make it great for myself, but for the bossess and the staff in general. Before we open the store everyone has a cuddle and a pet and [she gives] a therapy dog feel. And the customers go crazy for her," Abel said. "I have customers that specifically come in just to see her and I go, 'Can I help?' And they go, 'No, I just stopped in to visit Billy Jean.'"
And though it might seem unusual to some for a jewelry retailer to be a dog-friendly place, Miner's Den is certainly not alone in its pet-supportive work culture. Surveys of various employers report that between 2013 and 2015 the number of workplaces that permitted dogs has grown from 5 percent to 8 percent, with no signs of slowing down. In fact, an increase in the millennial cohort in workplaces suggests that this statistic will continue to rise, with industry leaders like Amazon and Google leading the charge.
Long- and Short-Term Health Benefits
And with a considerable rise in "working pets" there have been visible benefits to employees, too. Studies show that companies with pro-pet policies have increased levels of employee satisfaction along with decreased stress levels. For instance, a 2012 study conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University reported that for employees who were allowed to bring pets to work, levels of perceived job satisfaction increased and that there was significant stress reduction as workdays progressed compared with employees with no animals.
Beyond this, bringing a pet to work has demonstrated marked improvement in the health of employees, too. A 2017 study called "Dogs in the Workplace: A Review of the Benefits and Potential Challenges" found that pets can serve "as a source of social support, perhaps more effectively than a spouse or close friends."
"I feel like we can all lose interest in the game — in whatever game that is, your daily hustle. I feel that bringing her brings that breath of fresh air to the staff and if maybe you're just going, 'Oh, it's the same old, same old,' and she comes rolling through like, 'Hey, let's have a break, let's have a pet.' It's definitely something everyone looks forward to," Abel said. "On Thursday, they'll go, 'Is Billy Jean coming in on Saturday?' Of course she is, that's her day to work. If we could have her here every day we would, and the only reason I don't is because I have another dog at home, and I think it's just mean to leave one at home all of the time. My spouse is home on Saturdays, so they go on big dog walks together."
Balancing Employee (and Pet) Wants and Needs
Still, along with all the benefits pets can provide on the job, it's important for employers to ensure that there is a balance for those employees who would prefer to work without potential distractions like barking, greeting new customers and loud play. The "Dogs in the Workplace" study found that a healthy work-pet balance is struck only if employers take care to ensure that all employees are not being bothered by any pets present in the workplace.
"An employer's decision to accept a dog in the workplace ought to take into account the potential impacts to the health, safety and well-being of co-workers, regardless of whether the decision accommodates an employee with a disability or fulfills the employer's desire to create a pet-friendly workspace," the study said.
Some considerations for employers to consider are the allergies that current or future employees may have, the fall hazards an animal may pose, bites in the case of more aggressive or fearful pets, cultural sensitivities surrounding animals like dogs, and pre-existing fear and phobias that some employees may have. The study suggests regularly checking in with employees, either formally or informally, to ensure that whatever pets are present on the job aren't interfering. And finally, it's vital that if the decision is made to bring a pet into the workplace, that there is consideration for its well-being as well.
Ultimately, the only way to see if a pet's temperament and a work environment jell is by trying out the match. But if a potential pet is anything like Billy Jean, odds are that both customers and employees alike will find them a pleasure to be around.
"I would say that the people that you'd think would maybe be offended by having a dog are always totally diffused by her mug, you know?" Abel said. "So, it's worked in our benefit for the past couple of years that she's been here and I wouldn't have it any other way."