Have you heard of pooch power?
Published: 19 Jan 2016
Studies have shown that having a dog in the workplace improves morale and is likely to help keep your workforce fitter and more active, encouraging communication between staff and co-operation too.
Researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University in America claim that employees who take dogs into work show less stress at the end of the day than co-workers who don’t, and that dogs improve employee performance and satisfaction.
But can pooch power have other benefits? Can a dog in the office actually add profitability and form a valuable part of your business strategy?
For Fiona Willis, co-founder of RS Occupational Health (RSOH), starting her own company meant she decided if and when a dog was brought into the office.
“When Andrew Goodge and I started RSOH in 1999, there were many things we agreed on, the quality of our service, how the business would look and, should either of us ever become dog owners, they would be welcome in our office.
“Three years later, the first RSOH dog arrived, Scrag, a border collie – a working sheep dog – and not long afterwards Fleming, a black Labrador puppy.
“At first the changes were subtle. I lived close by our office, so we walked to and from work every day, even in the worst of the weather. A walk is a walk, but with a dog, a walk becomes a social event. By the time I got to the office in the morning I had spoken to several folk, it was a great way to begin my day.”
When other staff members started to walk Fleming at lunchtime, the health benefits cascaded throughout the organisation.
“Fleming became an agony uncle, non-judgmental, happy to soak it all up, always keeping a secret. I did, on the odd occasion, take him into interviews with me too. I believe you can tell a fair bit about someone, in general terms, by their response to a dog. It was a great way to put people at ease in a tense situation.”
When leading Aberdeen businessman Charles Skene, a Professor of Entrepreneurship, bought Humphrey the British bulldog, he soon realised that the puppy could make a positive contribution to the business portfolio.
Five years on and Humphrey is a successful therapet at one of the family businesses, Inchmarlo Retirement Village.
“He is our third bulldog. The kids named him after Humphrey Bogart as I am a major film buff,” Charles said.
“After taking him out to Inchmarlo as a puppy, I realised just how much pleasure he brought to the elderly residents and his role has grown from there. Now he has his own blog and is firmly attached to our Inchmarlo brand.”
The therapeutic value of animals in care homes has long been known as a way to combat loneliness, offering a reminder of a previous time when residents may have been dog owners themselves.
Not only do they make life in a care home more eventful and enjoyable, but Charles also credits the success of the business website with the presence of Humphrey’s monthly column.
“I thought the dog blog would be a good way to help people navigate the various activities and functions that we hold at the estate.
“Many people are interested in the life that goes on here and portraying life through Humphrey’s eyes is an added feature.
“Personally I love the YouTube videos of dogs skateboarding or surfing, and would say the image of a dog has had a powerful impact on our brand.
“Visitors are now keen to have their photograph taken with Humphrey and many people ask me how Humphrey is doing before they ask after me”.
As both dog lover and newly appointed general manager at Macdonald Pittodrie House Hotel, Pim Wolfs says being dog-friendly is a definite part of the hotel’s business case.
“One of my dogs, Douglas Macdougal, is a Scottish Highland terrier, so when I moved from Oxfordshire to the Bennachie Mountains for work, we felt it was like bringing him back home.
“I am really fortunate in that, unlike most four-star venues, we are a dog-friendly hotel. And the benefits for us are not only measured by our employees’ wellbeing but our customers’ too.
“We have water bowls and biscuits behind the bar for walkers coming down after a day on the hills and residents are relieved that a family holiday means they can truly bring all the family.”
For hotels and bars, especially sporting and rural venues, being dog friendly can be closely linked to profits. And for dog owners, too, not having to put your dog in kennels alleviates emotional stress, while also avoiding expensive boarding fees.
“Being dog friendly means we are reducing the cost of a break overall and many of Pittodrie House Hotel’s leisure guests rely on the fact that dogs are welcome,” Pim added.
“Not only is it a great way to enjoy an active break, encouraging you to really explore the landscape, in our case some 2,400 acres of stunning mountain landscape, it’s also a great way to forge new friendships along the way.”