Working from home with pets


It’s estimated that 42% of the U.S. labour force is working from home full-time — an unprecedented number triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic that created, essentially overnight, a working-from-home economy. What’s more, it is expected to become a more permanent reality for many workers.

If you’re among them, you may have realized that your pet adores having you home more often and has gotten used to some extra pampering in the form of extra walks, belly rubs and daytime companionship.

Your furry friend, whether of the canine or feline variety, or other pet, including of the feathered or scaled variety, however, may become a time-consuming distraction when it comes to getting your work done on time. Taking a few proactive steps can ensure that you’re able to not only cohabitate but also work productively while home with your pet.

What can be done?

Keep to a Routine — If your schedule has been upended by the pandemic and changes to your work schedule and location, now’s the time to get back into a routine. This will help your work life as well as your pet, which will get used to the routine right along with you.

He’ll then know that breakfast time happens right before you start work, and walks occur twice a day — or whatever schedule you dictate. Try to keep your pet’s mealtimes and activity times the same each day, and he’ll be less likely to interrupt you for a play session or snack while you’re in the middle of a meeting.

Make Your Work Zone Pet-Free — If your cat likes to nap across your keyboard or your dog likes to bark at you until you give him some attention, it’s a good idea to make your workspace a pet-free zone. Create your home office in an area of your home where you can close the door or put up a gate to keep your pet out when necessary. When you set aside time to work, then work at full speed. This makes the pet-centric breaks you take even more enjoyable.

Get Your Pet’s Energy Out — A tired dog is a well-behaved dog — and this is especially true if your dog is high-energy. Going for a rigorous run or an intense ball-playing session in the morning before you start work for the day may satisfy your dog’s need for activity for a good part of the day, so you can work uninterrupted. The key is to make your dog tired prior to starting your work day.

The same goes for kitties, which may enjoy a robust play session before settling in for a nap. Once you’ve given your pet some physical activity and mental stimulation, he’ll be up for a period of rest. This is a perfect time to tackle your deadlines without any distractions.

Build in Time for the Unexpected — Even the best routine should be flexible to account for the unexpected. With pets, the unexpected is, well, expected. Whether it’s a trip to the veterinarian, an accident to clean up or a regular potty break outside, build extra time into your work schedule to account for pet care tasks you may not have anticipated.

When you take work breaks, really focus on being present with your pet, setting aside five minutes for a quick brushing or a massage.

Be Proactive During Meetings — When you have an important video call or phone call, and need a quiet background, that’s the time when your dog will spot a squirrel outside and bark up a storm, right? Being proactive is again key to a successful meeting. Provide your pet with a high-level interactive toy such as a Kong or a long-lasting chew or bone just before your meeting.

Watch for Signs of Boredom — Being bored can lead to attention-seeking or destructive behaviors, both of which can make it difficult to have a productive work day. Excessive vocalization, knocking items off the counter, playing with your belongings and general rowdiness are all signs of boredom in pets.

You can prevent this head-on by giving your pet plenty of exercise at least twice a day, as well as ongoing mental stimulation in the form of obedience training, play “find it” and other nose activities.

Cats sleep 16 hours a day but you must set aside time for active play sessions every day — a few minutes away from the computer will be good for both you and your cat.

There Are Benefits to Working with Your Pet

Working from home with your pet isn’t all about distractions — there are benefits too. For instance, in a Rover survey of pet owners who are working from home due to the pandemic, two-thirds said they feel happier working from home due to the company of their pet.3

What’s more, 70% said they’re getting more exercise while working from home because they’re walking or playing with their pet more often. And one of the greatest benefits of all is stress relief.

Eighty-six percent of the pet parents said spending more time with their pets alleviated stress, which means having your cat curled up on your lap, or your dog by your feet, may, in fact, be the best work environment of all.

Prior to the pandemic, an increasing number of companies were actually letting their employees bring their pets to work, which led to increased cooperation, friendliness and enthusiasm compared to when no pets were present.4

So if you’re lucky enough to be able to work from home with your pets, recognize that, when done correctly, it may lead to a more enjoyable and productive workday — and make a point to make the most of the experience and enjoy the newfound time together.

Dr Karin Becker