From essential employee benefits to diverse workplace perks, the evolution of workplace health and well-being has seen beneficial and instrumental changes over the last several years. Long gone are the days of the ineffectual shake weight and Richard Simmons' florescent colored leg warmers (or not?!?!).
More employers-approximately 78% according to a Virgin Pulse survey of workplace priorities-are adopting a more holistic approach to workplace well-being and, in doing so, have altered their organizational structure to adopt oscillating communication strategies. From open communication strategies and employee recognition programs to financial well-being and mindful meditation services, the magnitude of benefit surrounding such diverse and practical lifestyle medicine and workforce engagement solutions provides a gateway towards optimal longevity, happiness, and well-being.
Lifestyle medicine, with its bountiful resources, provides a wide array of prescriptions that assist us in leading a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. Although most prominently known for its exercise and nutritional components, lifestyle medicine encompasses and provides a diverse range of solutions for achieving optimal health and longevity while collaborating with feet and fork approaches. This wide array of prescriptions aids in bridging the gap between knowing and doing while developing our sense of self-efficacy and intrinsic motivation.
Lifestyle medicine's desirable outcomes are oftentimes categorized by the actions we take on a regular or potentially infrequent basis. From consuming more wholesome, nutritious food items, moving more often and minimizing stress through mindful meditation practices to investing in a 401K, prioritizing sleep, and getting involved in community outreach, these actions most certainly can reap the sought after outcomes of great health and optimal longevity. However, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the integral role networks and supports systems (maybe not the ones you are thinking) have on positively influencing our health and well-being. This is where it gets a little hairy.
Google. Go Daddy. Autodesk. Salesforce. What do these companies have in common? Well, outside of an employee-centric, robust workplace culture, they also embrace the need for the harrier, fuzzier things in life- like dogs (ALL THE DOGS). With diverse, generational workplaces and a surge of millennials in the marketplace looking for experiential and purpose-driven career opportunities, these aforementioned companies, along with many others, design and embrace pet-friendly policies. In doing so, employers understand, respect and invest in people's lives beyond the defined and allocated cubicle and workspace. Such pet-friendly policies allow the company and its employees to reap various beneficial outcomes that play a role in optimizing health and longevity.
Although workplaces still need to be mindful of company and organization-wide pet allergies and safety issues, here are the top 5 health and well-being benefits (among many) of an embedded pet-friendly policy in your workplace:
IT'S "OH SO WORDY"
Feel as though the hierarchical structure of your organization is blockading flow of communication? Pets are not only considered a human's best friend but they also play a potent role in opening up lines of communication within the workplace. In a stressful workplace environment, the wagging tail and floppy ears can provide a gateway to meaningful communication, rapport building, trust, and comradery. With your team mascot (your pet) on your side, human interaction is much more likely.
BURN, BABY BURN
Our four-legged, furry friends do more than just eat, poop, and make us laugh. In a meta-analysis studying dog owners and non-dog owners, the research showed that dog owners walk more and are more physically active than those who do not own a dog. Whether your stuck at a cubicle or watching the time pass by, utilize the most valuable resource and support system in your furry friend to increase your daily physical activity.
NO PRESSURE HERE
From selfless love and unwavering support to bountiful compassion and loyalty, your pet plays an integral role in optimizing your health and well-being. Given these positive attributes, it is no surprise that pets play a role in lowering our blood pressure as well. In a study with 5741 participants, it showed that pet owners had significantly lower systolic blood pressure than pet nonowners despite similar body mass index and socioeconomic profiles. From tight deadlines at work to inboxes that never read zero, rest assured that a pet can provide the stress-busting, blood pressure-lowering relief you and your colleagues need to breeze through a long work day!
KEEPING YOUR GRAY AT BAY
With 80% of people feeling stressed on the job and annual stress-related expenditures costing companies between $125-$190 billion, there is even more reason to have a little pick-me-up at work while minimizing all of those gray hairs. Fortunately for us, our little furry friends come with an added stress-busting, health-enhancing benefit. The human-animal interaction may play a potent role in reducing subjective psychological stress as well as physiological stress parameters through the release of oxytocin.
LAW OF ATTRACTION
With the diverse, generational workforces comprising the marketplace, more employers are reviewing their benefit packages and employee perks to attain and retain top talent. By the year 2020, millennials will be making up half of the workforce, a generational population that tops baby boomers in pet-ownership. Providing pet-friendly policies and cultivating pro-pet workplaces will assist in attracting top talent in the millennial age group to the company.
Here's to a happier, healthier, and hairier workplace! I dare you to be sad with puppies around.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Colleen M. Faltus
With a passion and enthusiasm for workplace well-being and lifestyle medicine, I founded my own company, Healthy Fusions, an interdisciplinary workplace well-being company based in Boston, MA. As the President and CEO of Healthy Fusions, I am advocate of the power self-care, prevention, and lifestyle medicine has on adding years to life and life to years.
- Beetz A, Uvnäs-Moberg K, Julius H, Kotrschal K. Psychosocial and Psychophysiological Effects of Human-Animal Interactions: The Possible Role of Oxytocin.Frontiers in Psychology. 2012;3:234. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00234.
- Christian, Hayley E.; Westgarth, Carri; Bauman, Adrian; Richards, Elizabeth; Rhodes, Ryan E.; Evenson, Kelly R.; Mayer, Joni A.; and Thorpe, Roland J. Jr, "Dog Ownership and Physical Activity: A Review of the Evidence." (2013).School of Nursing Faculty Publications. Paper 9.
- Knowledge, H. W. (2015, January 26). Workplace Stress Responsible For Up To190B In Annual U.S. Healthcare Costs. Retrieved from Forbes : http://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2015/01/26/workplace-stress-responsible-for-up-to-190-billion-in-annual-u-s-heathcare-costs/2/#547c38d1546c
- Levine GN, Allen K, Braun LT, Christian HE, Friedmann E, Taubert KA, Thomas SA, Wells DL, Lange RA; on behalf of the American Heart Association Council on Clinical Cardiology and Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing. Pet ownership and cardiovascular risk: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2013;127