By Michelle Basham, Executive Director
With HR approval, our employees are welcome to bring their friendly pets to work with them, and the policy makes our workplace a happier, less stressful place.
Bringing pets to work has been shown to have all sorts of benefits for our employees.
A reminder to take a break
Our job is never done – there is always another youth in crisis, and there’s always more we can do to help. Everyone who works here is dedicated to their jobs, and it can be hard to remember to step back and take a deep breath. Dogs serve as a great reminder to step outside for a walk around the block, so
our staff can come back refreshed and ready to serve the youth.
In 2012, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University found that employees who brought their pets to work had reduced stress throughout the day. Those employees have also been found to be more productive, more collaborative, and more satisfied with their work life. The benefits don’t only come to pet owners – interacting with a dog at all has been shown to lower blood pressure.
Lead Youth Response Specialist Joe Valentine brings his Lab Boxer, Peanut, to work with him often. “I find that the staff, especially the interns, like having a dog around,” he said. “When you have dogs in these spaces, they bring benefits to the people that are hard to predict. For some people, they’re exciting. For others, they’re soothing.”
Setting the tone for the office
Having animals around lifts everyone’s moods. It makes the office feel welcoming, flexible, and comfortable. We see young people every day going through the biggest challenges of their lives, and sometimes staff disagree on difficult decisions. It’s important for us to all remember that we’re on the same team, and pets help us do that.
Crime Victims Case Manager Alex Kewitt doesn’t bring a pet to work, but she agrees that having animals around makes it easier to stay centered. “Navigating through the multiple bureaucratic systems our youth and families are served by can be exhausting,” she said. “Working with youth in crisis and families affected by the traumatic impacts of institutional and individual racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, cisgenderism, and more can leave one feeling disheartened. Animals have a way of softening situations, lightening the mood, disarming people and reminding us that we too are a part of the natural world, and that at the end of the day, what is important is connection.”
As Executive Director, my days are packed with meetings, difficult decisions, and the responsibility for keeping The Bridge on track. Bringing my dog, Rosie, to work with me helps me stay calm and focused on the things that need to get done.
Beginning later this month, the Bridge will also have six, certified animal therapy teams coming to the Bridge weekly to provide comfort and healing for Bridge for Youth clients.
At The Bridge, we’re focused on the well-being of everyone: youth, families, volunteers, staff, and our wider community. Allowing pets in the office is just one small way we show our employees that we care.