All Pet Voices Co-Founder, Chloe DiVita chats with the Executive Director of Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), Steven Feldman about the possible benefits and also some potential concerns with allowing pets in an office environment. HABRI has done extensive research about these benefits.
This video is part of the Pet Voices LIVE series. CLICK HERE to see the full schedule of videos.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 0:02
Would it surprise you to hear that 88% of employees who work for a pet friendly company would recommend their place of employment, versus 51% who work in non pet friendly workplaces?
This doesn’t really surprise me. I’m Chloe DiVita, your host today for Pet Voices LIVE where we are talking about the benefits of pets in the workplace. And right now some of us are working from home permanently. Some of us are heading back to the office and some of us are just hoping to find work.
So how do pets play into that?
We know from just a quick Google search, you know, you could Google “research on benefits of pets” and you’ll find there’s lots of health benefits. There’s quality of life, there’s mental health, there’s workplace environment and the benefits of mental health there. They just tend to improve our overall well-being. Even things like our blood pressure go down when we are snuggling with and petting pets.
So how does that really play in? Because it isn’t the only side of it, right?
There are some concerns about pets in the workplace. Things like health and safety, property damage, distractions. I don’t know what that’s about.
We are today going to be talking with the Executive Director of HABRI, which is the Human Animal Bond Research Institute. And they’re one of the places that has done research on this, not just about pets in the workplace, but about pets and how they benefit our mental health and well-being overall. So I am very excited today to welcome Mr. Steven Feldman.
I love his bio because he wrote it because he cares, because his love of animals and his curiosity about science are what led him to HABRI. And there, he gets to explore all the ways that pets and people are good for each other. So, he is passionate about the human animal bond, and he’s on a mission to apply his background in public policy to HABRI’s research so that the role of pets in society can strengthen and become something really, really great.
And I love that Steve. I just think it’s so fabulous. I love what you guys do at HABRI. I love that I’ve known about it for so long. And I really want to start at the beginning because not everybody is familiar with HABRI, and so can you share with us what it is and how it started?
WHAT IS HABRI?
Steven Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI – 2:13
Sure. Well, first of all, Chloe, thank you so much for having me here today. I’m really excited to talk with you and to talk about this subject. The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) is a nonprofit organization. We were founded just about 10 years ago by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), Zoetis, and Petco, but now it’s more than 40 companies and organizations, everybody who cares for pets, putting their money in to support scientific research on the benefits of pets for our health and our well being. And it’s really important to know that the more people know about the science that shows that pets are good for them, the better they take care of their pets. So it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. That’s what the human animal bond is all about.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 3:04
Yes. And I love that. And I think that you’re right. Because when we really have that extra knowledge about the benefits, it sort of elevates our motivation to care for them in a better way. Would you say that’s true?
Steven Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI – 3:19
Yeah, absolutely. And here’s another thing. Most of the people are… I hope many of the pet lovers out there say, “Well, duh, don’t we already know that pets are good for us?” All I have to do is get greeted by my dog when I come home from work or just have my cat in my lap. But it’s really important to do the science because that’s how we change things. That’s how we change policy. That’s how we make the world more pet friendly when there’s science to back us up.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 3:50
Yeah, and I think that’s a really important piece because at HABRI all the research that has been done has been with that idea of policy in mind – of how can this research change policy, benefit policy, and shift just the way we interact in it. And that’s why I think talking about it specific to the workplace is really interesting. I’ve been lucky enough to almost always have worked in pet friendly workplaces. Not every single place, but since I was 22, I’ve literally always had pet friendly workplaces.
So I have trouble understanding how people function without that, because having that break to go in and hang out with the office dog. I’ve been in offices with cats, with ferrets, with guinea pigs. That to me, actually made me more productive because it kind of gave me this true mental break, where I stopped thinking about everything. And then I could go back to what I was doing in kind of a fresh mindset. So that’s my experience. What have you found in your research that actually helps people be more productive?
BENEFITS OF PETS IN THE WORKPLACE
Steven Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI – 5:04
Well, and this is where your HR professionals are going to get really interested, right? Because we did some research on all the things that they care about.
Can they recruit the top talent? And yes, a pet friendly workplace helps recruit top talent.
Can they keep employees engaged with the company mission? We find that they’re more engaged with the company mission when it’s a pet friendly workplace.
Can we increase presenteeism? Are they present, engaged, call in sick less, that kind of thing?
And then can we keep up? One of the things that we asked was would you decline a job offer with similar pay. And in pet friendly workplaces, people were much more likely to stay put, because they really value that pet friendly workplace.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 5:59
Yeah. I could relate to that. If it was on the benefits, I’d be like, “Oh, I’m all I’m all about that.”
Steven Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI – 6:09
So those are the things that HR professionals care about and employees obviously care about that. They also reported to us that they had better mental and physical health. They exercised more, and they had a better sense of well being. And we see this time and again, not just in the workplace, but with all people who have pets, that they just feel better.
HOW DOES HABRI PERFORM RESEARCH?
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 6:32
How do you go about actually doing the research? Like, what is that like to actually decide “We’re going to research this. Here is our thesis and this is how we’re going to collect data.” Explain that a little bit. Bring us into the backside of it.
Steven Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI – 6:46
So the workplace research in particular, was a collaboration that we actually had with Nationwide Pet. They provide pet health insurance. They’re one of the largest pet health insurance companies. And there’s a new way that people are buying pet health insurance. They’re getting it as a voluntary benefit through their workplace. Because if you think about it, not every office can have pets, but you can have pet friendly benefits like the ability to work from home which, which I guess we’re all doing now, pet health insurance, or other ways that you can show that you care about pets. What we found was that it’s a spectrum. It’s not all or nothing. You can have pets some of the time. You can have pet friendly benefits, even if you can’t always have the animals there.
Alright, so how do we do this research? We did a big survey. 2,000 people who work in companies of over 100 people and who work primarily in offices. This is probably not safe or appropriate in some warehouse situations or other kinds of workplaces that always have pets. And then we did a really deep dive with those people to ask them about their mental health and their physical health. Do they own pets?
I’ll tell you, one of the most striking findings was, you are more likely to have a close connection to your co-workers and to your boss in a pet friendly workplace. So I’m always telling any CEO that I meet if you want your people who work with you to love you. Make sure you have a pet friendly workplace.
ARE PETS A DISTRACTION IN AN OFFICE?
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 8:37
Yeah, definitely. So in all of that, in the collection of all of that data, what were some of the things that made people go “Well, I don’t know?” Because I know “distractions” is something I hear a lot. I’ll be too distracted if there’s a pet in the office. I found the opposite to be true, but I can understand why people believe that that might be the case. So did you address that specifically or have any other things that came up?
Steven Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI – 9:00
We did. It was interesting. We saw a generational divide on the issue of distraction. Older workers were more likely to assume that the pets would cause a distraction and younger workers saw more of the bright side, saw more benefits, and perceived it as less of a distraction.
You can look at it as a distraction, but one of the really strongly scientifically documented benefits of pets in the workplace is collaboration. You meet and work with coworkers that you might not otherwise have a close connection to because the pets connect you. So that moment of distraction where somebody down the hall comes to see your dog might be the moment that you have an idea and work on it together to the benefit of your company.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 9:50
I love that I can see that happening because I know it becomes sort of this given icebreaker. You don’t have to worry about introducing yourself to the person because the pet becomes that introductory.
Steven Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI – 10:04
Well, that’s right. And I’m telling you it’s true for Zoom, because we all now have our pets with us while we’re working from home and when you see your co-workers’ pets, it’s a little glimpse into their lives. It makes them human, so they’re all our co-workers now.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 10:22
I have flat pets. My dogs are around here somewhere, but I have them in flat pets too.
Steven Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI – 10:27
About three weeks ago, we adopted a kitten into our family, but he’s a little too energetic to be on this with us today.
WHAT PETS ARE A GOOD FIT FOR THE WORKPLACE?
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 10:38
Well, that brings up another topic to discuss related to this. Pets in the workplace, I love. I think it’s so beneficial. I love that you’re doing research. When it comes to actually implementing the policy side of it, is there any part of that that has to sort of qualify the kind of pet that’s good for the workplace? Because as much as I love all pets, I know that not all of them are actually fit to do well in the workplace environment.
Find out more about what pets are good fits for the workplace by watching the full video above!
For more information on pets in the workplace and HABRI:
Website – habri.org
HABRI’s The Woofice
HABRI’s Workplace Wellness
Facebook – Human Animal Bond Research Institute – HABRI
Instagram – @habrigram
Twitter – @HABRITweets