Working from home efficiently with pets

After months of working from home, chances are your “coworkers” have done pretty embarrassing things, like barking loudly during an important call or grooming themselves in full view of your videoconferencing audience. Here are a few tips to help keep your remote workplace productive and your pets happy.

Benefits of pets for remote workers

While they may sometimes disrupt your productivity, a cat or dog can be a valuable coworker to manage stress when you are working from home, especially in these challenging times. Especially for people living alone, having an animal companion provides many psychological benefits like reducing boredom and anxiety, improving mood, and acting as a comforting presence.

It’s important to welcome your pet’s attention and maintain a positive attitude towards them. Pets are able to pick up on our anxiety, and cats who are used to having the house all to themselves can be stressed out by the enduring confinement. Just as your pet is there to help you make it through the workday, they need support from you in return.

Establish (and stick to) a pet routine

While working from home, having a stable schedule helps create a predictable, reassuring structure to the week for everyone involved. Feed your pet at regular times, plan dog walks or play sessions at specific moments in the day, and include a daily grooming session. Your pet is less likely to come begging for food or to go outside once things start happening when they expect them to. Taking these short breaks away from your computer to give your pet extra attention will make them happy and provide your brain with a welcome distraction, so you can be even more productive when you resume work.

Set up separate rooms

Ideally, set up your home office in a dedicated room where you can close the door and keep your pet away when you need your full concentration, or when you don’t want your furry coworker disrupting your important videoconference. If that’s not possible, consider instead isolating your pet in a room of their own with all the essentials (food and water, litter box for cats, a comfortable resting spot and plenty of toys) for a brief period of time. Come visit them regularly so they don’t feel like they’re being punished, and let them out as soon as your meeting or short productive blitz is over, offering them a special treat to thank them for their cooperation.

Keep your dog or cat entertained

When your dog is barking loudly during a videoconference or your cat is walking all over your keyboard, they’re not actively trying to sabotage your work. They’re likely just bored. Keep a series of special or unexpected toys you can pull out when your pet needs to be kept busy. It can be a food or treat-dispensing puzzle or something as low-tech as a cardboard box, crumpled tin foil or an empty toilet paper roll for cats. Do a constant rotation between different items to keep them fresh and entertaining.