If you’re someone who has made the sudden shift to working from home in the past months, you know that it is not as easy as it sounds. Not only do you have the usual distractions of being at home, but you have pets who don’t understand why you’re home and are actively seeking your attention.
Managing working from home with your pet doesn’t have to be frustrating. We went to pet and work-from-home experts for some of the best tips they have to offer on how you can stay productive “at” work while your pet wants your attention.
Setting Up a Pet-Friendly Workspace
Especially for those who don’t typically work from home, it’s important to think about where you will do the bulk of your work and to be consistent about it.
Putting some thought and preparation in this space can be the first step to setting boundaries and expectations with your pets.
“Strategically place pet beds/towers for catnapping so they aren't tempted to sleep on your desk.” (Melissa St. Clair, Paper Chaser)
“Placing your pet’s favorite toy, blanket or bed near your workspace to keep them close by will help keep them content.” (Dr. Danielle Bernal, veterinarian, Wellness Natural Pet Food)
“I cannot set my notebook down without [my cat] plopping her cute self right on top of it. Now, I set up a decoy notebook. I place an old notebook right beside my work area and let her curl up there for as long as she likes.” (Lisa Torelli-Sauer, Editor at Sensible Digs)
“One thing I have found to not only help keep my pets calm while I work, but it also helps me is a product called Wholetones for Pets. It is a little speaker that pays frequency-based music that helps really calm my crazy pets and allows me to stay sane while working!” (Becky Smith, Willow Digital Marketing)
“Give your dog some projects. Deliver your dog’s meals in food puzzle toys. Divvy her food up in different toys in the morning, and provide them throughout the day to keep your dog busy when you need to focus. Bonus: This is excellent mental exercise for your dog as well!” (Jessica Ring, Dog Trainer & Behavior Consultant, My Fantastic Friend)
Starting a Productive Day with Your Pet
Just like people, your pet probably needs you to set the tone for the day. When you start the day similarly to when you would leave the house for work, you can set the expectations from the start.
“Take him or her on a long walk before you start the work day. This will help them be calm as you try and settle in with the added bonus of getting your brain working with some exercise.” (Eric Shulman, Co-Founder, White Hound Co.)
“Create a routine that allows you to get your work done, when you need to get it done. We tend to run our pup in the morning to tire her out. She’ll then remain calm until lunch time, when we will take her out for about a 20-30 min walk. After that, we’ll usually give her a puzzle toy to occupy her mind and tire her out further, which buys us time until the end of our work day. We schedule meetings and tasks around these hours.” (Datis Mohsenipour, Outback Teambuilding and Training)
Adjusting Your Workday When Your Pet Wants Attention
Try as you might, your work day at home will not look the same as it did in the office. Some small adjustments can go a long way to minimizing distractions caused by your pet.
“I try to take a break about once an hour just to get up and out of my chair, stretch, etc. This is also a great time to lavish my cat with attention and give him a burst of playtime. Then he's less likely to be needy in between breaks.” (Julie Ewald, CEO, Impressa Solutions)
“Talk to them on occasion so their curiosity isn’t piqued when you start speaking to others on a video/call.” (Melissa St. Clair, Paper Chaser)
“Spend 5-10 minutes every hour or so just to have a little time away from the desk when working at home. Why not step outside, grab some fresh air and take your pet out for a walk. Not only will you feel more productive after coming back, your pet will probably be tired and leave you alone for a good while.” (Michael Lowe, CEO, Carpassionate)
“Every day at 11a, I give [my dogs] a frozen peanut butter cup. I take a small amount of peanut butter and layer the edges of a cup. After an hour of mental stimulation like this, they're exhausted, and it translates right into nap time for at least two hours. During this time, I schedule all of my conference calls, because I know they're going to be quiet.” (Aimee Spencer Tiemann, BrightShinyBold)
“If the instant messaging app you use for work has the option to turn off the enter button to send a message (making it so you need to actually click it with your mouse) - DO IT! I know it’s annoying having to click it every time, but take it from someone whose cat has sent one or two ‘0te0t0w’ messages to clients - it’s worth it!” (Silvia Pinho, Virtual Assistant and Social Media Manager, Silvia Pinho)
“I hide tiny pieces of treats all over the house for my dog and he runs around looking for all the pieces. He knows that's his game, and he LOVES the activity.” (Nataliya Ogle, Style Tomes)
“Freeze a kong the night before. Putting peanut butter or yogurt into a kong, along with some of their dry food, and freezing it for an hour or two will create a long lasting treat that keeps your pup occupied and quiet.” (Eric Shulman, Co-Founder, White Hound Co.)
Having Realistic Expectations While Working from Home with Your Pet
Even with making some helpful changes, every day that you work from home with your pets won’t be perfectly productive. Adjusting your expectations, though, can help minimize frustration.
“We've been suggesting getting the pets involved, if possible. [Having] my cat perched on the back of my chair during a video conference or taking the call on the couch next to the dog isn't actually that distracting. Also, from the feedback we've gotten from clients, seeing our various furry friends is actually a really pleasant surprise in a difficult time.” (Julie Ewald, CEO, Impressa Solutions)
“It can be tempting to offer treats numerous times a day to temporarily keep your pet busy while you work, but it’s important to be mindful not to over-treat, which can disrupt a dog’s overall diet and contribute to obesity.” (Dr. Danielle Bernal, veterinarian, Wellness Natural Pet Food)
“Get them into a routine. They know when I am at the computer I don't pay attention to them and they go into another room and go to sleep. They will learn (it may take a week or so) and get it.” (Dr. Gayle Carson, Carson Research Center)
Most of all, enjoy this extra quality time with your pet! They may get in the way at times, but the love you get from your pet is unlike any other. Soak it in while you’re working from home!