Now that working from home is the new normal, you may have found yourself spending your days with a different type of colleague – one with four legs and a wet nose. While the prospect of being able to spend the day with your pet is a major benefit of working from home, it doesn’t come without its challenges. To help you fully embrace this new way of working, we’ve put together seven tips for working at home with pets.
Before you start your workday, set aside some time to spend with your pet – take a long walk, toss a ball around in the yard or dog park, or play some indoor games. Dedicated time spent with your pet is a great way to strengthen your relationship and start the day with some exercise. Whatever activity you choose, make sure that your pet has spent enough energy to need some downtime afterwards. This way, your pet can rest and you can start your work uninterrupted.
Teaching your pet to be a well-behaved colleague is just like training them to do anything else – practice makes perfect! The best way to get the desired behavior to stick is through repetition and the use of positive reinforcement. If you want your pet to sit quietly on their bed while you’re on a call, give them opportunities to do this each day and reinforce the behavior with a high-value reward, such as a small piece of their favorite Freshpet treat or meal. As you build upon their successes and reinforce the skills that they have learned, the behavior will soon become second nature.
Working while your pet is nearby can make it tempting to step away from your desk for a quick cuddle session whenever you need a break. While this is certainly okay to do, it’s easy for these little breaks to add up. The best way to balance your work and pet time is to schedule dedicated breaks throughout your day. Having this structure will not only help you get your work done, but it will also create a routine that teaches your pet the difference between when you’re working and when you’re ready to play.
Setting up a dedicated, pet-free workspace is one of the best things you can do when working from home. It allows you to keep a clear division between where you work and where your pet plays, which can help you keep a healthy work-life balance as well as get your pet into a routine – when you’re at your desk, you’re working, when you’re not it’s playtime. If you don’t have a workspace you can keep your pet away from, try using a crate or pen to create a special spot for your pet to stay in while you work. This shouldn’t be thought of as a “time out space” but instead, their own haven they can relax in while you’re busy.
Nothing is more distracting than a bored pet looking for attention, so make sure they have plenty of ways to keep themselves occupied while you work. One way to keep your pet entertained during work hours is to reserve a special toy for these times. For example, a Kong filled with their favorite treat will keep them busy for an extended period and keep their minds active. Another option is to give them their own “job” to complete, such as finding all the treats you have hidden around the house. For more inspiration, take a look at our list of the best toys to keep your pet busy indoors.
When joining virtual meetings, you don't want to be distracted – or have your colleagues be distracted – by your pet. Keeping them occupied is a good first step, but even then they can be noisy. Try keeping your microphone on mute when you’re not speaking and keeping your pet out of view of the camera. Of course, you can always start or finish up a meeting by introducing your pet to your colleagues – because what’s better than a little bit of pet time to add some excitement to a call.
It’s important to keep in mind that even the best-laid plans don’t always go accordingly – this is why you need to be flexible while working at home with your pet. Do your best to follow the schedule you’ve set, but be prepared to take unscheduled breaks if your pet needs to be let outside or simply wants a few minutes of attention. Chances are many of your colleagues are in similar situations and will be understanding if you have to step out of a call or reschedule a meeting last minute.
Whether you’re working from home temporarily or indefinitely, we hope these seven tips will help make this transition easier for both you and your pet.