Many people find themselves working from home, not necessarily by choice, which can be challenging in more ways than one. Those who have pets at home have had to make adjustments to balance getting anything done while tending to their furry companions.
We love our pets, but let’s be honest, working from home with your pet can be distracting. If you’re home all day, they probably don’t understand why you aren’t playing with them or interacting more.
We’ve done the research and came up with a few helpful tips to keep your dogs and cats occupied while you work.
Working From Home While Caring For a Pet
It seems like right in the middle of a Zoom call or a tight deadline, the shenanigans start. There are squeaky toys, playful dogs, lethargic kittens on your keyboards — the list goes on. Nonetheless, many home workers have found a sense of joy while being home with their pets.
What Pet Owners Should Know
Various researchers have studied the effects of pet ownership and working from home. There are some benefits and some disadvantages that you should be aware of when endeavoring to manage both.
Studies show that the positive outcomes associated with having a pet present while working at home include:
- Lower levels of loneliness and depression
- Subjective happiness and well-being
- Ability to teach children to be compassionate and responsible
- Increased social interactive
- Active involvement within the community
- Decreased nervousness
- Increase in physical activity
- Lower cardiovascular risk
Researchers in mental health have stated that pets can form meaningful and strong bonds with their owners; this results in improved mental health for many.
Here’s what the research says:
- About 54% of pet owners have said that they feel a little less anxious having their pets with them while they work.
- Two-thirds of people working from their homes have stated that they’re happier having their pet’s company.
- 70% of pet owners said that they can get a lot more exercise by walking and playing with their pets.
On the other hand, there are some downfalls to working from home while having a pet. Researchers are still unsure as to whether pets have a detrimental impact on productivity. Here are the findings of studies that have sought to find a connection, good or bad:
- Pet owners feel that their independence is limited.
- Pets can experience the negative emotions of their owners.
- Pets can be distracting when trying to be productive.
With needing to stay in our homes, what free time someone does have may become absorbed by a pet who wants constant attention from their owner. This can be challenging for owners who aren’t used to dedicating so much time to a pet in their daily life.
Veterinarians encourage potential pet owners to remember that pets, dogs especially, have the unique ability to be in synchronicity with their owners. They can often feel the stress and anxiety of the owner in an unhealthy environment. So be aware that you and the pet will feed off one another in the relationship.
How to Manage Work and Pets
If you find that you have a pet that can take away from your efficiency while working from home, here are some veterinarian recommended solutions.
Dogs and cats tend to be different in many ways, so instead of compiling a general list, we’ve separated the tips into two groups. Here are the top tips that have shown promise for pet parents looking to work from home successfully while their pets are present.
Tips for Cats
We’ve centered these tips around playing, cuddling, and developing a consistent regimen with your cat. They’ve grown used to seeing you leave every day, and now that you’re always home, they’re probably a little confused as to why you wouldn’t want them to ball up and lie in your lap all day. The goal is progress, as it won’t be seamless overnight, but they eventually get the idea.
These tips also help to build a stronger bond between you and your cat, so hopefully, you both enjoy them!
Tip #1: Get Your Cat Tired Early On
Cats love to lay all over you, seemingly when you’re busy. It’s a good idea to get your cat up and moving around before your workday begins. The idea is that if you can tire your cat out a bit before you need quiet time, you may get that quiet time to work while your cat naps.
Cat trees are a great combo distraction because they include cubby holes to hide
in, a jungle gym, scratching posts, and additional features. Your cat will be out of sight for hours! There are different cat trees styles, and you can purchase one from your local pet supply store.
Other items to occupy your cat:
- Cardboard boxes an
- Paper bags
- Toilet paper cores
Tip #2: Snuggle Time!
A lunch break is a perfect opportunity to let them know that you aren’t just ignoring them. Holding them for around 10 minutes or playing will help a lot. You want to reassure them that there are specific times of the day that you’ll give them attention, and they must wait for those breaks.
If your cat has been patiently waiting on you, you can also give them a small (healthy) treat for their obedience to the new circumstances. Of course, they may not make the association and might just assume you’re giving them a treat because you’re nice; that’s okay too.
Tip #3: Don’t Reward Poor Behavior
As hard as it may be, don’t give into poor behavior one way or the other. If your cat is searching for your attention and you allow them to interrupt you to respond sternly, nicely, or by yelling, you’ll set yourself back. This may be just what they were looking for!
It’s better in these situations to ignore your cat until you’ve finished your task; don’t send mixed signals. If you respond sometimes and not others, they’ll just take their chances of continually interrupting you until they get what they want.
This tip is essential because it established boundaries between your pet and your workspace. Whining, meowing, scratching at the door, laying across your desk are all tactics that your cat will employ! We advise that you quietly remove them from your space and do not relinquish interaction until the appointed time.
Tip #4: Give Your Cat a Special Place
Sometimes the best option isn’t to shut your cat out of the room but to just give them a designated space near you. If you have a heated blanket or bed that you can place nearby, your cat may respect your work time. Simply being close to you and comfortable may buy you a few crucial minutes here and there.
Accompany this special place with something that they can do while they’re there. In the instance that they aren’t sleepy, keep them busy with a toy or item they can play with while you work. This is beneficial for making sure they’re not getting into mischief as well.
Building Consistency With Your Cat
Investing in a few more toys, healthy snacks, and cat furniture will help a great deal with your feline friend. Repetition will get them accustomed to expecting your time and attention during specific periods and minding their business when you’re unavailable.
Veterinarians recommend playing into natural behaviors to hunt and the cat’s curiosity of the world. Reward positive behavior and show stern disapproval when they happen to disregard the “rules” you have in place.
Tips for Dogs
We know that it’s easy to get distracted when working from home; this is doubly true when your dog musters up the hugest puppy eyes because they’re ready to play. Shooing them away may do more harm than good. When dogs get bored and then ignored, they’ll find ways to entertain themselves, and you probably won’t like it.
Dogs have certain go-to activities when they’re restless such as excessive digging, barking, chewing, chasing, and whining. To keep your dog stimulated while you work and also build healthy habits, try these helpful tips.
Tip #1: Set up a Play Time With Your Dog
If your work schedule is pretty consistent, you should try to find time to interact with your dog playfully. They probably have a lot of pent up energy that they’re waiting to use. Play games with your dog, such as tug-of-war or fetch, to keep them active while indoors.
The scent game is another activity that your dog will love, and there’s a treat in it for them at the end! Put a treat in plain sight of your dog and tell him or her to find the treat. Continuously add more distance between yourself and your dog as you’re hiding the treat. This will encourage your dog to go all around the house searching for the hidden treat.
Alternatively, offer your dog a food puzzle or a brain puzzle that stimulates their minds and keeps them busy while you’re in a meeting or finishing your workday. If you’re interested in DIY brain games that you can create for your dog, check here for ideas.
Tip #2: Go For a Short Walk to Exercise
Dogs love to go for walks; this is a great exercise source for both you and them. If you can take short ten to fifteen-minute walks around the block multiple times a day, it allows you to take a mental break, and your dog gets to spend time with you.
Pet parents have stated that this is a wonderful break from the mundane work environment where they can occupy their own minds and bodies with something other than work for a brief period.
Tip #3: Teach Your Dog New Tricks
Training your dog and teaching them how to follow commands is always a good way to pass the time. Again, most of the tips pertaining to keeping a dog busy should focus on incentives to think and be active.
You can spend idle time during the workday teaching your dog the following directives:
- How to sit down
- How to come when called
- How to settle down
- How to leave something alone
- How to lay down
This not only allows you to interact with your dog, but you can teach them to respect your space when you’re working as well. Though this tip requires a lot more work and patience, it’ll be well worth it in the end.
If you have an older dog that has already been trained, you can teach them new tricks such as flipping a light switch, yawning, or even putting their toys away. Older dogs aren’t usually as active; therefore, they can concentrate for longer periods and are often easier to train.
Tip #4: Construct an Indoor or Outdoor Agility Course
If space isn’t an issue, you can set this course up inside your home, but if not, the backyard will do. There are a few key components to an agility course- jumps, tunnels, chutes, etc.; but you can improvise to make it fun for your dog.
Create tunnels by placing chairs together that the dog can run underneath, and put buckets, brooms, and mops in the way for your dog to jump over. You could also buy a hula hoop for them to jump through and a teeter-totter to walk along. This is a cool way for your dog to gain agility skills and stay out of your way while you’re working!
Building Consistency With Your Dog
Working from home with a dog can be trying but not impossible. Your dog will want to play with you and try to understand why you’re not responding as much as you normally do, but they’ll pick up on the changes eventually. Veterinarians and dog trainers alike suggest that time and patience are required to train your dog to stay quiet and occupied for a set amount of time.
By trying to find creative ways to squeeze your dog into your schedule, you’re doing yourself and your canine companion a world of good in times such as these.
Much of the effort will come down to establishing a schedule while working from home with your pet. If you incorporate them into your routine, it’ll help them know what to expect throughout the day. Of course, every day won’t be perfectly regimented, but if you adjust your habits and give your cat or dog something to look forward to, it may help with productivity.
You can work from home with a pet if you give a little to get a little. Remember that enrichment is the key!