Working from home allows me to be a more involved pet owner, since I get to be around my pets all day. Right now, I have two dogs, two cats, and a rooster. (I also have a snail but it hardly gets in the way of anything.) But having pets around while you work leaves you open to several distractions throughout the day. How can you find the middle ground of enjoying your pet’s company without letting them disturb your work?
Know your pet’s behavior. By understanding your pet’s behavior and what it means for you as a teleworker, you’ll be better equipped to make decisions that would benefit your pets without getting in the way of your work. You’ll also know how they’ll react to different situations, and how much of a distraction they will be.
For example, I know that Toby, one of my cats, is very independent and doesn’t care what I do. Because of this, I don’t mind that he’s around when I work. However, my other cat, Sasha, is attention-hungry. If she’s around, I know I’m not going to get any work done. So if I know that I need to do a lot of work, I try to avoid encountering Sasha.
Train them. Before I got my dogs, I thought training them was just a way to be cute, since they can sit, stand, roll over, or play the xylophone at your beck and call. This misconception didn’t make me take training seriously, until I realized that I needed my dogs to be more disciplined.
Training is a good way of facilitating a more balanced “give and take” relationship between you and your pet. Instead of always doing things on their terms, they need to understand that some things need to be on your terms too.
Get them on a schedule. Since my dogs need walking, I make sure that they get used to being walked in the afternoon. This is the perfect time for them to walk, because I’m done with work by then, and it’s not too dark. Before I got them on this schedule they would bark at the most inconvenient times, wanting to walk. Be consistent when it comes to their feeding, walking, and bathing times, so that their needs won’t conflict with yours.
Having my rooster was a bit difficult at first, because I’m not sure how you get it to follow a schedule. Roosters can be very annoying if you just went to bed in the wee hours of the morning, and it starts a lengthy cock-a-doodle-doo routine near your bedroom window. My solution? To wake up before it does. Of course, this means that I get up earlier than my other pets as well, so I don’t get bothered by them while I work.
Give them something to do. If they can tell that you’re in the house, they usually want to spend time with you. This is especially true of dogs. Try to find toys that they don’t get tired of easily, such as those balls that allow you to hide a treat inside, or those tough rawhide bones that take a long time to be ripped apart. The activity of choice will depend on your pet’s preferences.
Make your office off-limits. This is still something I’m working on, since my office divider is made out of curtains. When I get the chance, I’ll work on a more permanent divider because having pets in the office can be disastrous. One of my cats once jumped on my scanner, which made it fall from its rack and land on the mouse (and broke it). Of course, more minor accidents tend to occur, such as a broken ceramic coaster, or pens falling off my desk. Attending to these accidents can be a hassle, so try to keep your office off-limits to pets.
If your pets are well-behaved or if they can be contained (ex. birds in a cage, fish in an aquarium), then it might not be such a problem to have them in the office. But even if they can sit and stay perfectly, your keyboard and other computer equipment might still end up covered in fur.
I’ve also created “zones” in my home that keeps the dogs separate from the cats. Giving them their own space will allow them to move freely without getting into fights. You can’t afford to play referee to inter-species arguments when you have a deadline approaching.
Having pets in the home can be truly rewarding. Once you establish a schedule and a system, your pets don’t have to be distractions to your work. In fact, they might help enrich it.
Do you own any pets? How do they affect your ability to work from home?