The world is a very different place from what it used to be. COVID changed a lot, but one area which particularly accelerated was the move to working from home.
Previously, it was a luxury. Many people had to fake the boiler man coming if they wanted a WFH day. Now, many workplaces have moved to a hybrid model, requiring people to just come in one or two days a week.
If you’re really lucky, your workplace may actually be entirely remote. Many people can’t see themselves ever returning to a world of commutes, office culture and not being able to put their washing machine on during their lunch break.
But if you have pets, you don’t always get peace and quiet.
From cats walking on keyboards to dogs nudging your arm with their nose, our new co-workers are friendly enough, but they can be distracting.
And, having you around all the time can also cause issues if you do eventually leave the house from time to time. A day out, overnight stay or even just nipping to the shops could cause separation anxiety in dogs if they are used to you being around 24/7.
(Although studies have shown that cats are more likely to actually became depressed with us being around more often, not when we leave them. Typical).
These are some tips for creating an environment that suits both you and your animal when you’re spending the working day together. As hard as it may be, you need to create some boundaries with your four-legged friends…
Working from home with a pet
Don’t give in to demands
They are whining for a treat. To keep them quiet, you give in. They bring their ball over. You get up to play with them, despite only having done two minutes of work since your trip to the kitchen.
When you are at home, your pet is used to getting alllll the attention, especially if you are sitting down. But they need to understand that just because you are in the living room, it doesn’t mean they have your undivided attention.
As hard as it may be, ignore them as much as possible. When they bring your ball, pretend they didn’t. If they are whining at the door for a treat, don’t pay any attention to them. If your moggy walks on your desk, grab them and place them back on the floor or in their bed.
Even saying ‘no’ could count as attention for some pets, so try your best to pretend they aren’t in the room.
Create a separate space
Some of you may be working in bed, at the kitchen table, or on the sofa. We know having a home office is a luxury.
But if you can, at least create a desk space away from where your pet usually stays during the day, such as in the kitchen if they stay in the living room. You may have to close the door to keep them away, so ignore any scratching or whining.
Remember that altering where they stay can be an upheaval too, so try not to invade their space too much. If you must be in the same room, give them their own area where they can stay to avoid them sleeping on your feet or trying to get onto your lap.
This can be especially handy for cats. They are creatures of habit, and those who are very much their own person may find it hard to have people around all of a sudden, particularly if they are used to a quiet home 8-4. They need a lot of sleep, so ensure they don’t get stressed.
Keep them active
Try to tire your pooch out as much as possible. This could involve a game of fetch in the nearest field or taking them somewhere new where they can make the most of the new smells and experience to tire their brain out.
You may even want to incorporate some training into the walk, or when you’re at home. Scent games or treat-based activities are a brilliant option. We compiled a handy guide on activities to do with your dog during the lockdown, which applies whenever you’re in the house.
If you have a cat or small animal, you can try playing with them in a burst of energy in the hope they will have to nap afterwards. Interactive cat toys are also great.
Set aside attention times
We need to create boundaries, but completely ignoring them could be stressful for them. The more that you show them you will pay attention to them on your own terms, the quicker they should learn not to bother you.
When you take your break to flick the kettle on or scroll through Instagram, give them some playtime too. Do it away from the ‘office’, so they know that when you leave, they aren’t to follow you to continue the event.
Try to vary your routine
Now you’re either completely WFH or hybrid, routine has probably changed. You may get up at 6 am if you’re having an office day, but at 8.59 am if you’re working from home. No, we won’t tell your boss.
So are you planning on now taking Patch for a walk at 10 am every day instead of 7 am? But what will happen on the day you are in the middle of something, or you’ve got a Zoom meeting, and you can’t leave the house on the dot?
Ensuring your dog doesn’t expect to be taken out, fed or played with at the same time can help you get what you need to do done, and can also reinforce that your dog needs to learn to go with your routine and not expect things at certain times or demands.
Even if you are sticking to a regular routine up until now, varying their dinnertime is an easy way to get them prepared for any changes.
However, this can differ if you have a cat. As mentioned higher up, they are creatures of habit. They can easily become stressed with changes, especially if they are used to doing their own thing during the day and now find themselves being disturbed.
So, try to keep cat mealtimes, sleeping times and everything else the same. At least you don’t have to take a cat for a walk. But with dogs (who need a little bit more attention and exercise), get them used to unpredictability.
On a different note, varying your time schedule can also limit the risk of dog theft. The wrong people can get to know if you’re always out at 8 am or 12.30 am. Don’t allow people to know your schedule, for your own safety too.