By Melissa J. Anderson

As winter drags on, things begin to seem a bit, well, gloomy – and not just the weather. Dampened spirits can damage productivity and can also reflect poorly on your team if a sour atmosphere is conveyed to your clients.

Morale boosting activities may be in order. But some activities have benefits way beyond brightening up the mood.

Two recent studies have revealed the value of bringing some fun into the office – and it can mean more than happy faces. Of course, happy employees are generally productive employees. But these creative morale boosters do more than boost spirits – they can improve trust, team cohesion, and wellness.

Lucky Dogs!

A recent study out of Central Michigan University showed that bringing dogs into the office can build trust between people. Carried out by Christopher Honts and Matthew Christensen, under the guidance of Stephen Colarelli, Ph.D, the study showed that having dogs around encouraged people to be more cooperative. According to PsychologyToday‘s Lee Charles Kelley, the team performed group experiments in which participants worked together to create a mock advertising campaign. A dog was included in some of the groups, while other groups had no dog.

According to Kelly, Christensen said:

“Canines had a distinctive advantage for the goals of this study. They have over 15,000 years of shared [evolutionary] history with humans. As such, they have developed extremely adaptive characteristics. It appeared to us that dogs act as social catalysts. This is why we decided to utilize groups of [people] who had no prior relationship [with one another]. It was our belief that dogs would facilitate the development of certain interpersonal variables such as trust and intimacy.”

Kelley writes:

“The researchers found that the groups who had a dog hanging around – wagging its tail and acting doglike while they wrote their mock ads – ranked higher on qualities of trust, team cohesion, and intimacy than the teams who were dogless.”

The researchers are still completing the final research, but it seems likely that having a dog around does more than make individual employees happy. A dog-friendly workplace can help boost team-work and trust – which can also make your team more effective in the long run.

Bike to Work Clubs

A recent study out of the UK group Cycle to Work Alliance shows that bike riding can boost employee engagement. According to Cycle to Work Alliance’s Behavioural Impact Analysis [PDF]:

“Introduced in the 1999 Finance Act, the scheme encourages employers to loan bicycles and cycling safety equipment to employees as a tax-exempt benefit for the purpose of cycling to work. Under the scheme, employers buy cycling equipment from suppliers approved by their scheme administrator, and hire it to their employees. At the end of the loan period, the employer may choose to give the employee the option to purchase the equipment.”

According to the report over 15,000 employers have taken advantage of the initiative. The CWA surveyed 45,000 individuals for their study, which found that 87% of the initiative’s participants had noticed their health improving.

According to the report, “98% of respondents said they would encourage other colleagues to take part in the cycle to work scheme.” In fact, the report said that most of the employers felt that the bike to work scheme helped boost employee engagement as well.

The report says:

“With 89% of employers believing that the cycle to work scheme is an important way to improve employee engagement, the scheme clearly plays a vital role in creating a more productive and engaged workforce, while at the same time reducing companies’ and individuals’ carbon foot prints.”

With so many employers reporting that bike-to-work program has boosted employee engagement, and employees reporting a boost in wellness as well, it makes waiting for spring that much harder. It may be a good idea to start planning an employee bike club.