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Pet therapy: Pet power at work

THE ASIAN AGE. | MANISHA VARDHAN
Published : Oct 12, 2017, 6:30 am IST
Updated : Oct 12, 2017, 6:30 am IST

Companies the world over are using animal power to reduce stress and help in staff retention.

Angels Foundation recently took their therapy dogs into the Tech Mahindra offices in Mumbai.
 Angels Foundation recently took their therapy dogs into the Tech Mahindra offices in Mumbai.

With the workforce getting younger every year, the old stodgy methods of team building may not work. It’s time to do something new. Animal power could just be the way forward.

It’s been said a million times and yet it bears repeating for the millionth and one time: A dog is truly a man or a woman’s best friend. Yes, even better than diamonds and flowers at times. Little surprise, then, that petting or stroking a dog or a cat does wonders for your blood pressure and stress levels. Playing and interacting with them rates high on the feel-good scale.

Again, no surprise that big corporations have stumbled on this fact and some of them have started working on how they could help their employees de-stress and become more productive. Ultimately, this feel-good factor will reflect in the company’s balance sheet. A 2016 survey by Banfield pet hospital in the US found that 82 per cent of employees feel a greater sense of loyalty to pet-friendly companies, 88 per cent think pets at work improve morale and 86 per cent say they reduce stress.

Companies the world over are using animal power to reduce stress and help in staff retention. Companies such as Google, Amazon, Purina and Nestle have realised the value of animal power and are doing their best to harness it. When they allow their employees to bring their pets to work, the employees are happy and happy employees are productive employees. A win-win situation for all.

So every day is a bring-your-dog-to-work day at Google. At Amazon, around 2,000 employees have registered their pets at its headquarters in Seattle so they can take them in to work. Around 8 per cent of US and UK employers allow dogs at work.

dogs

The trend is catching on in India. But it may take a while before it becomes a full-blown trend. Currently, it is the start-ups, mostly with millennials as CEOs, who have started bringing their pet dogs into the workplace. Chumbak Studio in Bengaluru, Pagalguy in Mumbai, Smitten in Chennai, Beard Design in Goa, and June Software in Pune are some startups which have pet-friendly offices.

So, will it ever become the norm? Would it be considered quite normal to take your pet to work?

“No,” says Radhika Nair, a clinical psychologist who practises animal-assisted therapy with Angels Foundation, Mumbai. “Currently, it is only CEOs of these start-ups who are bringing in their dogs to work. It is difficult for it to really work in India because most Indian owners do not take the trouble to train their dogs. You cannot take your untrained dog into an office space. But the trend is changing. The younger generation is more open to training their pets as they want to take them along on vacations and to dog camps.”

Angels Foundation recently took their therapy dogs into the Tech Mahindra offices in Mumbai. The dogs walked the floors and won many hearts, besides putting a smile on the faces of the employees. “It was a major de-stressor for them to get off calls and play with the dogs,” says Radhika.

Suchitra Kerkar, global head — human resources, Tech Mahindra Business Process Services, agrees. “Our employees experienced a unique de-stressing event involving therapy dogs at their workplace, which was conducted by the Animal Angels Therapy Centre (Pune) and the Animal Angels Foundation (Mumbai). The Animal Angels team with their four-legged companions facilitated various animal-assisted activities with our associates, who enjoyed the company of their amiable four-legged friends and wanted more at the end of the day.  Taking note of these beneficial aspects of animal therapy, the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai recently began a pet therapy programme. So you can now cuddle your troubles away in the company of therapy dogs from the Animal Angels Therapy Centre in Pune. The Fur Ball Story which was launched last year in Gurgaon by a bunch of friends who are providing therapy for corporates, universities and hospitals.

While pet therapy is not the same as getting your pet to work with you every day. It is a start. With more and more companies looking at ways and means to help their employees function in a productive and harmonious manner, Indian employees may look favourably at employees getting their pet dog or cat to work.

Maybe, like a Friday thing. With the workforce getting younger every year, the old methods of team building may not work. It’s time to do something new. And animal power could just be the way forward.

Tags: pet therapy, animal power