As much of the country has shifted to working from home due to the current situation, we’re all experiencing versions of a “new normal.” Kitchen tables are doubling as desks, fleece pajamas have replaced business casual, and you now have four legged “co-workers” who don't understand why you’re home all the time! With dogs video-bombing online Zoom meetings and cats taking over keyboards it can take time for you and your furry friend to adjust to this new reality. Here are some tips on how you can stay as productive as possible in your new environment while enjoying the perks of having your pet around.
Get Into A Routine
One of the biggest challenges people are facing is a disrupted routine. We’re creatures of habit and let’s face it; most of us usually operate on auto pilot Monday through Friday. It’s important to recreate a daily rhythm to help keep you in the right mindset. Plus pets also do better when they have an anticipated routine. Why not replace your morning commute with a brisk walk with your dog? In addition to logging steps on your FitBit, your pup should be sufficiently tired out when you get back to allow you to get your work day started.
If you’d normally take a 20 minute coffee break at 3PM; why not use this as playtime with your furry friend? Remember, dogs are creatures of habit, too, so it’s important to keep their daily routine as structured as possible. If they’re used to getting daily midday walks it’s important to keep these going. Sticking with their regular routine as much as possible will mean less disruption and confusion for them when you do go back to working from your office. Bottom line: getting into a routine can be beneficial to you all!
Don’t Forget About Kitty!
Dogs aren’t the only four legged family members wondering what’s going on. As we all know, cats are very independent creatures and probably enjoy having the place to themselves when you go to the office. Now that you’re home all the time, you’ve surely interfered with their seven daily naps or whatever other important “business” they tend to when you’re not around. They may associate your presence with having your undivided attention. An easy solution to help kitty adapt? Make sure your feline friend has plenty to do. Keep a basket of toys on hand so that you can easily toss them one when they're getting rowdy.
Since cats are unpredictable creatures and you never know how they’re going to react, your best bet is to try to keep your response low-key so that you’re not reinforcing the behavior. For cats that may not want constant interaction and miss their alone time, I would recommend setting up a quiet, cozy spot as a kitty retreat. Remember, this is an adjustment for all of you!
Keep Your “Fur-Workers” Busy
While your pets might think your entire purpose of being home is to play with them, we know that unfortunately that’s not the case. When you can’t give them one-on-one attention, make sure you have things to keep them occupied. Give them “projects”. Hide treats around the house or feed them meals in a puzzle feeder. Right before you hop on your conference call, give your dog a long lasting treat that will keep him occupied a quiet. A frozen, peanut butter filled Kong is great for this!
Have special toys around to keep them entertained. You don’t have to go crazy with buying a bunch of things either! If you’re like me and have relied heavily on “retail therapy” to help get you though this, you probably have plenty of Amazon boxes laying around. I’m always amazed at how much enjoyment cats can get out of boxes… hours of entertainment!
If you don’t typically work from home, it’s important to think about where you will be “setting up shop”. This is a good way to set boundaries and manage your pet’s expectations. It also helps to give your dog an independent space. Whether it’s their crate or a separate part of the house, set them up in an area where they can snooze, play and relax while you’re hard at work. Creating a clear divide between your workspace and your dog’s play area will go a long way in ensuring your productivity and keeping your pup in a routine.
It might be a bit trickier with cats so I’ve found it helpful to strategically set up cozy nooks and comfy beds for my kitty in my workspace area so that she can be close to me and content, but won’t be tempted to sleep on my desk. Something else I do and highly recommend is playing frequency based music to help calm and relax pets. I ask Alexa to play soothing music for pets, but I’ve also heard wonderful things about Wholetones for Pets. Soothing music will relax your fur baby and keep you sane while working!
Embrace The Positives
When you’re up against a stressful deadline or dealing with an annoying co-worker, taking 30 seconds to scratch your kitty’s chin can do wonders for your mood (and blood pressure!) While taking short breaks to to give belly rubs won’t help you meet that looming deadline, they will help ease any anxiety. Pets are are natural stress reducers! Being in a happier mood = less stressed out and can boost your productivity. Having four-legged friends around can also help combat any feelings of loneliness or isolation that can come from working solo at home.
It’s easy to get sucked into a project and sit at your desk for hours. This is not good for your mental health or your lower back! You need to get up every so often to stretch your legs and clear your mind. Pets provide the perfect “excuse” to take a break or remind you when it’s lunchtime.
Working from home also allows you to enforce house rules and positive behavior. By sticking to your routine, your pets will understand when it’s time to play and when it’s time to work. Having you at home can also make your furry friend feel more at ease and help deter any bad habits that might be brought on by separation anxiety.
While minor distractions are likely, working from home with a pet is absolutely possible and in my opinion can make your work experience even better!