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Pets and Productivity: Does Having an Animal in the Office Make You a Better Worker?

Pets and Productivity: Does Having an Animal in the Office Make You a Better Worker?

    Hanging out with man’s best friend is a huge part of our daily routine, and for many families a dog or cat is like another child. But as much as we pamper our furry friends, we can’t take them everywhere with us. And when it comes to those 8 hours (or more) we spend on the clock, it seems like our family pets are just never welcome to spend time with us while we are at work.

    But not all professions believe in working without their trusted animal friends. For centuries, cats have been prowling breweries and farms to kill rats and mice. K9 units couldn’t function without their canines, of course, and many hospitals and nursing homes have on-staff dogs or cats to comfort patients. Even some bookstores have cats prowling the stacks.

    And increasingly, “regular” offices are encouraging pets to become a part of the work day. But are animals in the office a source of distraction, or a legitimate tool for increasing productivity?

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    The Drawbacks

    If anyone in your office suffers from allergies, bringing a pet to the office would be inconsiderate, even if you are at the top of the food chain. But respiratory conditions aside, there are plenty of other problems with having an animal in the workplace that could severely impact your productivity.

    For one thing, an ill-behaved pet can cause havoc in all kinds of ways, from “accidents” to jumping up on your desk and knocking over your computer or stacks of papers. An animal that is too energetic should not be constrained to an office environment, for the sanity of you, your co-workers, and the pet itself.

    Sick pets should stay at home; no one wants to walk into your cube and see a pet dragging its back end across the floor. And it should be obvious that animals with aggression problems should not be in an office….unless you want to get sued.

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    Therapy animals or service animals, on the other hand, should always be welcome in an office setting.

    By the Numbers

    According to one study conducted by Christopher Honts and his colleagues at Central Michigan University, dogs in the office can help to boost productivity.

    And according to a survey conducted by the American Pet Products Manufacturers, 17 percent of Americans work at pet-friendly companies and 23 percent believe pets should be allowed in the workplace.  The survey also found that 70 million Americans believe having pets in the workplace reduces stress, and 46 million believe having pets in the workplace creates a more productive work environment.

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    Since 1996, people have been celebrating Take Your Dog to Work Day every June, with over 10,000 companies participating in the United States. The next Take Your Dog to Work Day is June 24th, so start buttering up your boss now to get them to take part.
 

    Success Stories

    In Portland, Oregon, the local opera company has a resident cat named Nerissa. The Opera’s general director Christopher Mattaliano also allows dogs at work.

    “I feel a happy staff is a productive staff,” says Mattaliano.

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    “During stressful times here, I get people coming in from a different floor just to connect with [my pet]” adds Noelle Guest, the director’s executive assistant.

    Elsewhere in the country, Linda Goldstein Dunay, president of a marketing and public relations firm, is also a fan of pets in the workplace.

    “From the beginning, I wanted my company to feel like a community,” she says. “I find that having dogs around, and allowing people to have their pets with them, is a big morale-booster.”

    Murray Low, director of The Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center at Columbia Business School, adds that allowing employees to bring pets to work can be an inexpensive way to bolster productivity and reduce stress. “If the pet’s at work, it’s not as difficult for the employee to stay till 10 at night.”

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    Would you ever bring a pet to work? Have you ever worked in a pet-friendly office? Let us know in the comments below!

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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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