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A dog in the the Softchoice office in Toronto.

DELLA ROLLINS/The Globe and Mail

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Bringing four-legged pets to the office offers host of workplace benefits, study finds

In the dog days of summer, taking your dog to work might just be the way to reduce stress and boost job productivity and satisfaction, a study finds.

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Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University spent a week studying stress levels at Replacements Ltd., a Greensboro, N.C.-based seller of dinnerware that has had a pet-friendly policy for 17 years. As this story reports, "among Replacements' inventory of 13 million fragile items, you'll find a pit bull in this china shop, along with a beagle, several miniature dachshunds and dozens of other canines every day."

Researchers split Replacements' workers into three groups: dog owners who brought their pets into the office every day; owners who did not bring their four-legged friends to work; and employees who didn't own pets at all.

Employees had saliva samples taken to set base levels of hormones measuring stress. Researchers found similar starting levels among all three groups, but, as the days wore on, there were noticeable differences in the levels of employees who had dogs with them, and those who didn't, with the lowest stress levels among those with dogs by their side, and the highest among those who'd left their pets at home, the study found.

The presence of dogs at the workplace had all sorts of positive benefits, from increased communication among workers to employees reporting higher productivity and making them feel their employers cared about them, the study found.

"There might be a benefit here," Randolph Barker, business professor at VCU and lead author on the study, was quoted in Inc. "It's a low-cost wellness benefit, and it could be a recruiting opportunity (for businesses)."

Missed marketing opportunity?

Here's some food for marketing thought: Nearly three-quarters -- 73 per cent -- of Canadians say that when they reveal personal information, from their age to their e-mail address, to a company, they expect customized offerings and deals in return. But just 37 per cent of those who reveal such personal information say they get the personalized marketing, a study finds.

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That's a missed opportunity, according to the online study of 1,511 Canadians by SAS Canada, which was conducted by Leger Marketing.

Sixty per cent of respondents said they would like to receive more personalized marketing material, and half said they'd be more likely to buy from a company that personalized its marketing. As well, 46 per cent said they'd be willing to give up personal information in exchange for personalized offerings.

The study also found that 52 per cent of respondents said they had stopped doing business with a company because of a bad marketing experience.

Among the information they're most willing to part with, e-mail topped the list, for 65 per cent, followed by age, for 59 per cent, postal code for 55 per cent and educatin level for 46 per cent. As to how they like to communicate with companies, e-mail was top of the list, followed by mail and social media.

Small businesses more vulnerable to cyberthieves

If you think your small business couldn't be a target of attack by cyber-thieves, you might get a reality check by reading the tale of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Lifestyle Forms & Displays Inc., a maker and importer of mannequins whose bank accounts were drained of $1.2-million by online transactions in a matter of hours.

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The company isn't sure how that happened, though The Wall Street Journal's reporting in this piece and this one says the Web security experts suspect cyberthieves installed a virus on the company's computers.

The Journal reports that small businesses are often vulnerable to cyberthieves because they have limited security budgets and few or no tech experts among their employees. As one measure, it reports that 72 per cent of 855 data breaches worldwide last year were at companies with up to 100 employees, according to an analysis by Verizon Communications Inc.'s forensic analysis unit.

"Small businesses feel like they're immune from cybercrime, and they're wrong," the Journal quotes Larry Ponemon, chairman of the Ponemon Institute.

The Journal also offers some tips on how to better protect a business against cybercriminals.

Unplug and unwind

It's summertime, which means it's time to recharge. But it's tough to unplug and unwind. The Huffington Post asked some of the "world's most wired people" how they disconnect. For those who can't quite make the disconnection, offers up five new mobile tools to help keep business running while taking a break.

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Social Mix conference

For some insight into harnessing the power of social media marketing for your business, check out The Social Mix conference, designed to help businesses better understand how to use social media to drive results. With speakers including Gary Vaynerchuk, Amber Mac, the event takes place July 26 in Toronto. For more information, click here.

Nominations for FuEL awards

There's still time to make a nomination for two awards under one application: the FuEL Awards and the CYBF Chairman's Awards for best business, both of which "celebrate the successes of young Canadian entrepreneurs, identify role models for progressive business management and inspire youth to make entrepreneurship their No. 1 career choice." The application deadline is July 16 and winners will be announced in November. For more information, click here.


Lawyers dip their toes into cloud services

When confidentiality and reliability are an obligation, online storage introduces a whole new set of variables.


Selling out to an employee: an insider experience

The McLaren brothers recently sold their majority ownership in Vancouver's Allied Shipbuilders to the company's vice-president of operations, reported this March story, offering a how, why, and what could be learned from their experience.

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