updated 4/12/2012 3:16:54 PM ET 2012-04-12T19:16:54

It's long been known that owning a pet can be good for your mental and physical health, but new research indicates that it can also make your office a much happier and productive place.

That's the finding of a first-of-its kind study, which looked at the effects that man's best friend has on employees. In that research, dogs were demonstrated to have many positive benefits in the workplace, most notably that they reduce stress and make working more satisfying.

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"Although preliminary, this study provides the first quantitative study of the effects of employees' pet dogs in the workplace setting on employee stress, job satisfaction, support and commitment," said principal investigator Randolph Barker, professor of management in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business. "Dogs in the workplace can make a positive difference. The differences in perceived stress between days the dog was present and absent were significant. The employees as a whole had higher job satisfaction than industry norms."

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To prove this, Barker, along with fellow VCU professors Janet Knisely, Sandra Barker, Rachel Cobb and Christine Schubert of the Air Force Institute of Technology, examined workers at a North Carolina company for one week. The company, which has 550 employees, also has between 20 and 30 dogs, brought by employees, on any given day. (The Lone Ranger and 4 Other People Companies Want to Hire)

Workers reported that the dogs were a "great bonus for employee morale" and "a great stress relief," while also being an aid in "increasing co-worker cooperation." The stress relief that dogs provide, however, has many additional benefits since reduced stress consequently leads to reduced absenteeism and burnout, while also improving productivity.

"The effect of pets in reducing the impact of stress and enhancing communication found in other settings may extend to the workplace," Barker said. "Pet presence may serve as a low-cost, wellness intervention readily available to many organizations and may enhance organizational satisfaction and perceptions of support. Of course, it is important to have policies in place to ensure only friendly, clean and well-behaved pets are present in the workplace."

This research was published in the March issue of the International Journal of Workplace Health Management.

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