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If you’re anything like us two things get you very excited in life; 1, ways to increase your productivity and overcome efficiency roadblocks, and 2, animals. That’s why, today, on National Pet Day (at least in the UK it is), we have a look into a surprising, yet fluffy, ‘developer tool’ that could be the key to unlocking higher levels of work satisfaction and output: our pets!

The Power of Pets in the Workplace

Louise and Otis in the office

Louise and Otis in the office

Believe it or not, more and more companies are allowing employees to bring pets to the office. Tech giants like Google have long welcomed dogs, and the practice is becoming increasingly common, especially in pet-loving countries like the Netherlands. We are seeing pets being brought into the office quite regularly on Linkedin – and they definitely  bring a sense of lightness and enjoyment to the place.

But pets aren’t just cute companions – research shows they can have a significant positive impact on productivity and employee well-being:

  • Stress Relief: A study by Virginia Commonwealth University found that employees who brought dogs to work had lower stress levels compared to pet-free colleagues. Petting an animal releases relaxation-promoting hormones like oxytocin.
  • Happiness Boost: Having a pet nearby to interact with throughout the day makes employees feel more relaxed and happy, leading to higher job satisfaction and morale.
  • Social Lubricant: Pets act as an icebreaker, helping employees bond and interact more. This can foster better teamwork and even smoother business deals.
  • Increased Focus: While it may seem counterintuitive, having a pet around can actually improve focus and productivity by providing short, revitalizing breaks from intensive work.
    Freddie in the office

    Freddie in the office

Rubber Ducking: Debugging with Inanimate Objects

Sometimes the best coding companion isn’t your pet, but an inanimate “rubber duck.” For software engineers, “rubber duck debugging” is a tried-and-true technique for working through tough bugs or complex problems. It came about from the influential book “The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master” by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas in 1999.

“As the story goes, an ol’ time programmer used to carry around a rubber duck so that, when his code required debugging, the rubber duck would “force” the programmer to explain the code in detail, line by line.” (Rubber Ducking – What It is and Why It Works)

How does it work? Simple:

  1. Get an inanimate object like a rubber duck or stuffed animal.
  2. Explain your coding issue to the duck out loud, in detail, line by line.
  3. In the process of explaining, it helps you see where there are disconnects between your code and your intention. Therefore, you’ll often reach a solution or a new insight into the problem.

While it may feel silly at first, vocalizing your coding approach forces you to organize your thinking, question your assumptions, and sometimes spot flaws or new paths forward. It’s like having a debugging partner, minus the quacking.

This technique isn’t limited to literal rubber ducks or just for programmers – anyone can use a figurine, photo, or even a houseplant as a sounding board for working through any tough problem.

The Key Ingredients

Whether it’s a living pet or rubber duck, these productivity boosters share key benefits:

  • Relaxation: Both petting an animal and expressing your thoughts out loud can have a calming effect.
  • Externalized cognition: Speaking or even writing out your thoughts makes them tangible – it’s easier to manipulate and analyze ideas outside your own head.
  • Emotional support: Pets provide comfort, and even an inanimate confidant can make tough problems feel less overwhelming. It’s comforting to talk it out.

Implementing Pet Policies in Tech Environments

While the benefits are clear, integrating pets into the workplace requires thoughtful policies to ensure that both the animals and the employees feel comfortable and productive. This includes designated pet-free zones for those with allergies or fears, rules around pet behavior and cleanliness, and considerations for the pet’s well-being, ensuring they’re happy and engaged throughout the day.

Conclusion: So this National Pet Day, consider how a furry friend – or a stand-in like a rubber duck – could help supercharge your productivity as a developer. Whether you lobby for an office pet policy or keep a rubber duck on your desk for gnarly debugging sessions, these unlikely allies can be powerful additions to your work routine. Give it a try – your code (and your mood) will hopefully thank you.