How to work from home with a pet

Turning Points 4 min read

Only a few weeks ago, we were all going about our normal routines, heading to the office in the morning, coming home in the evening, and squeezing in walks with our dogs.

Now, it feels like the world has been turned upside down, and most people with office jobs have been asked to work from home. Although there are plenty of people who regularly work from home, if that hasn’t been the case for you, you’re likely now scrambling to settle into your new normal. And there’s a chance you now have one (or a few) four-legged co-workers.

And you’re not the only one trying to adjust in your home—feline and canine friends are likely unsettled by the changes as well. Although they’re most likely to be excited by your constant presence, this can cause complications when you’re trying to get work done.

So, how do you work from home with a pet? The two biggest issues to consider are the two biggest changes in your work life—your space and your schedule.

Making a space that can work for you and your pet

Let’s get down to the brass tacks of working from home—your workspace.

Try to find a private, secluded place in which to set up your home office. Ideally, this space should have a door that can be closed to prevent distracting, four-legged visitors from interrupting. But, if that’s not possible, make it as private as you can. Can you rearrange living room or bedroom furniture to make a corner dedicated to work? Designating this space will also help you feel like you’re not always working, as you can separate your “office” from your home.

Next, consider how much desk space you’ll need for your work. Can your work be done with only a laptop? This will give you more flexibility. Perhaps assigning a seat at your kitchen table as your “desk” will give you the room you need, although it’ll increase the chances of animal distractions. Does your job require a lot of equipment? This will mean you need to take more time to create a space that works for you. Do you need to repurpose (or borrow) a table to dedicate to your work? Do you need to take steps to prevent curious animals from exploring this new setup?

Don’t cave to your pet whining or pawing at the door now that you’re all set up. They need to know that even though you’re spending more time at home, you’re still the boss, and crying and whining won’t get them what they want.

Make sure they have plenty of toys and entertainment so they don’t turn to destroying furniture. Reinforce good behavior (i.e., playing independently with their toys) with praise and treats. Remember, it may take time for them to adjust to this new situation, just like it’ll likely take you time to adjust as well!

Scheduling in a time of upheaval

Developing a new “normal” schedule is important. Generally speaking, animals behave better when they know what to expect. Keep their exercise and feeding routines the same, as much as possible. Try to start and end work at similar times as to when you left and returned home from the office.

You’re now home more, and you can adjust accordingly. Taking regular breaks to play with your furry friend(s) will help give your brain a break too, which will do wonders for your mental health and productivity. Setting designated play times will also reinforce obedience in your pet.

You may need to incorporate more or less exercise time depending on the type and breed of animal you have. Vary your walks (keeping six feet of space between you and anyone you meet!) to keep yourself and your dog from getting bored.

Everyone is adjusting to this new way of working, which means there will still be kinks that need to be worked out. There has necessarily been an uptick in conference calls (both phone and video). This means you now have to consider animal noise levels and distractions at home. Try to schedule these calls for times when your animal isn’t expecting your attention (for feeding, play, walks, etc.) or the usual mail delivery time.

Bright sides and reality checks

The bright side is that we now have technology that makes working from home much easier and more accessible. But it’s a huge, difficult switch for a lot of people.

What can we do to make this transition easier for all of us? Consider sharing photos of your new furry “coworkers” with your long-distance office mates. Perhaps you can set up a video conference call where you all introduce your pets over a cup of coffee. Meetings like this can help you feel less isolated and help remind us all that we’re in this together.

Try to appreciate the stress relief your animals can bring you in this time of stress and uncertainty. Taking the time to cuddle or go for a walk can do wonders for the soul. And remember—have patience with your pet, be flexible, and treat yourself with grace and kindness.

These are uncharted waters we’re exploring together, and it’s OK if you get distracted sometimes. Much like a chat over coffee in the break room, you deserve a breather now and then!

And whether you’re stuck inside or are walking your dog at the park, remember to always keep your pet protected with Progressive. 

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