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Paws for Thought – can animals really help mental wellbeing?


The annual ‘Take your Dog to Work Day’ provided a great excuse to enjoy cute pictures of canine companions all over social media outlets. But is there more to having a dog, cat or other animal around in your daily life?

People with pets often say they feel calmer and happier for having them around. And scientific studies show that pets can lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and improve opportunities for social interaction as well as encouraging people to exercise, by walking their dog for example.

Before you dismiss the idea of dogs in the workplace as something of a gimmick that might go down well at a trendy design agency or pet-related business, it’s worth taking a look at studies that show it could have real benefits for workplace health and productivity.

In studying employees in a manufacturing company, researchers for Virginia Commonwealth University, USA found that those who brought their dogs to work reported feeling significantly less stressed throughout the day than those who did not bring a dog to work.

When you consider that 11.7 million working days were lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in the UK in 2015/16, you can see that it’s serious problem. Could encouraging a few furry friends into the office help to decrease tensions and encourage more interaction?

Matt Mazzuchi, Store Manager at Jollyes Petfood Superstores in Newcastle thinks so. He says: “Having a dog around takes the corporate edge off. It makes the atmosphere more relaxed and productive. They’re proven to reduce stress and to help with concentration too. If your dog is well trained and sociable, then there are few reasons not to welcome them at work.”

Animals can offer health and wellbeing benefits beyond the workplace too. In Gateshead, a project encouraging people to keep hens has been shown to reduce depression, loneliness and the need for antipsychotic medication for those in sheltered housing and care homes.

Northumbria University studied the Henpower scheme over a 12 month period and found that it helped improve the health and wellbeing of older people by giving them responsibility for caring for the animals and lots of different ways to interact with others.

The original North East based scheme has gone on to inspire others around the UK, with volunteers known as ‘hensioners’ taking hen road shows to schools, community events and to other care homes.

So, whether it’s raining cats and dogs in the workplace or getting your day off to a cracking start with some hens, human animal interaction can be a positive tool in promoting health and wellbeing.


Author bio:Michelle-Nicol-I-am-Wordstruck

Michelle Nicol, writer, Wordstruck writing and training

Michelle is a copywriter, trainer and brand storyteller who helps businesses tell their story through words that attract attention. A former BBC journalist, she loves nosing out a great story and sharing her writing expertise through training and workshops.


My Creative Inspiration By Amy Purdie

Our latest blog is brought to us by Amy Purdie.

When I was at school I loved drawing. My school didn’t offer Graphic Design (although I don’t think I knew what that was then) so I took Art and also Product Design – other people made tables and other things made with wood, I designed a juice carton and a book about recycling!

Thankfully my design teacher DID know about Graphic Design and so when she showed me that as an option for university it made complete sense and that was that. I didn’t get into University first time (probably as my portfolio was mostly art, and not really very graphics filled) so I went to college for a year to study graphic design instead – which was a great experience – and then I got in after that.

During the final year at University I had one placement at a design company which I was reeeeeaaaaaalllllllly nervous about. It was a big company (to me) and I was too nervous to walk across the room to the water cooler! Later on I arranged a placement at a local design company and this was amazing. I really enjoyed it. There was just me and the two guys and I felt as though I fitted in so much better. They had mentioned that they were looking for someone to employ sometime after my graduation, so I arranged to do a placement there again once the year was up – turning down a placement at another big scary company so that I could go back. At University we had been told that we’d have to work for free for a while to build up experience before getting a paid role, but I was getting married, I couldn’t hang about waiting for a job, I wanted to buy somewhere to live!

I basically spent that summer nagging them until they gave me the job! Or that was how it felt to me. The only downside of gaining my first (and only!) full time “proper” job was that I couldn’t keep up my Saturday job in the coffee shop alongside it. There were some fantastic customers and I loved it there – I got to meet so many interesting people, and who doesn’t want to be surrounded by tea and cake?! It was a huge improvement to my first Saturday job in a chemists where we’d had to sew our uniform pockets up because they didn’t trust the staff not to steal. We also had our pockets checked if we wore our coats in the stockrooms. I only stayed three months!

I think working with just the three of us meant that I not only felt really comfortable because I didn’t have to get to know too many people but they were great to work with, they taught me loads and I felt very involved and aware of much that was going on. I may have learnt a fair bit at university and college, but actually working for real clients on real projects was thrilling and a learning curve. I had to learn about business, something I hadn’t given much thought to before – but when you’re creating work for real people it does actually matter that you’re creating something that they’re going to use to help build their business in some way. You can’t just make something that looks pretty, it has to fulfill a purpose.

Mark and Lee put me in the BNI (a business network)- I was terrified! But the people there were so encouraging and interesting and I learnt SO much. It also really helped me to grow my confidence as I had to speak in front of people. I am still quite a shy person now, but not a patch on how I used to be! They had a mentor who came to the office and I learnt from him too, and then later on, a few award ceremonies and a couple of office moves later, I took part in a trip to Hong Kong, had to learn about web design (Mark was a very patient teacher), helped organise a big charity event (I loved doing that!) and the company brought on more staff. There was a lot of variety and I thoroughly enjoyed working there with the loud music playing, people popping in and out from other offices, getting to meet the clients myself (something my friends from university didn’t get to do in their jobs) and plenty of good conversation as well as working really hard to create some great work between us all.

I was really sad (and shocked!) to be made redundant – but I had been so unintentionally well-prepared by my employers that deciding to become self employed – at their suggestion – became the best option and so that was what I did. Fortunately I also have a very supportive family and that helps a lot too!

I have now been working for myself for 7.5 years and I don’t regret it for one moment. I have even worked on a project for the lady who used to own that scary company with the water cooler that I couldn’t use, I’ve worked with people in the UK (of course!) the US, Europe and Asia, I’ve created illustrations – I told you that I love to draw, I’ve made people from fimo, I’ve worked with I don’t know how many fascinating people running amazing businesses to create logos, brand identities, printed materials and websites that help their businesses to grow, I’ve spoken at events (something I don’t count as one of my skills, but practice makes perfect!), I’ve made many videos and blogs, learnt a lot about marketing and social media, connected with different people and learnt a bit about what they do, tried new things, experimented and started two other businesses.

I love what I do. I’m in charge of my own future, I have flexibility to work the hours I want to work around my family and I get to do things that light me up.

Amy Purdie helps businesses become irresistible to their ideal clients through creating purposeful graphic design, she creates personalised papercuts and a monthly subscription box filled with DIY templates and she helps people set and achieve their goals. The rest of her time is spent running around after her two children and drinking copious amounts of tea.