It's Bring Your Animal to Work Day Everyday When You Work from Home!
With more than four billion people under stay home orders around the world during this COVID-19 pandemic, most of us find ourselves trying to get our jobs done in our homes instead of our places of business. Some of us already have home offices, while others are trying to make do with bedrooms, kitchen tables, or laps. Whatever the setup, those of us who live with animals will also have the added benefits – and distractions – of a furry friend who suddenly finds their routine upended by our constant presence at home. How can we be productive and have fun with our animals while working from home? And how can we help them maintain the calm certainty of normal life while we live in these decidedly abnormal times?
Be Active to be Proactive
It is likely that your animal will be a little more energetic than usual with the excitement of having you at home all the time and a routine that has been tossed out the window. The best solution to this problem is to get ahead of it as soon as possible. Prevent your animal from using all that extra energy to get into trouble by quickly establishing a new routine and by staying as active as possible. For example, consider starting each day with animal activity time. Take your dog for a long walk, play a game with your cat, or let your rabbit out of their crate to hop around the house for a bit (make sure you keep an eye on them and keep them in a safe area). Just do whatever activity you both find enjoyable to expend all that nervous energy. Your animal will have something to look forward to each day and be tired out enough to let you get things done by the time you start work, and you’ll have a chance to get centered before you get started. You’ll also limit the possibility that your dog or cat will wander into your new workspace and make a surprise visit on that video conference call.
Work on Training Skills
Be careful to avoid accidentally rewarding unwanted behaviors from your animals, such as your dog barking during a work call or a cat that demands to be pet when you need to use your hands to type. When you attend to your animals while they are doing something you don’t want them to do, you may be inadvertently rewarding and therefore increasing those behaviors. If your dog is barking or whining for your attention, don’t give it to him until they are calm and quiet. If your cat is climbing on you while you are trying to work, gently redirect her to another place and go back to work. And before these things happen next time, work on training your animal with desired behaviors so you won’t have to worry about correcting undesirable behaviors at an inopportune time.
Bring Your Animal to Work with You
Place your animal’s favorite toy or bedding in your workspace so that they can play and rest near you while you work. Stop what you are doing periodically to give yourself a break and to give your animal some affection. A little bit of cuddle time every hour or so will help them feel comfortable and safe, give you a quick stress relief, and increase your bond with each other.
You may also want to try pretending that your animal is your co-worker and chat with them during breaks and lunchtime just as you would a colleague. Tell them what’s going on, how your day is going, the ups and downs of your current project, or anything else you feel like chatting about. This will help both of you feel less isolated and talking things out, even to an animal who does not answer you, at least not in your own language, always helps us to feel calmer.
On the other hand, trying to recreate your typical work environment where you are away from your animal all day long even though you are actually at home with them will cause them to feel lots of unnecessary stress and anxiety. Don’t try to pretend like you aren’t at home when you are or ignore your animal all day because you think they are used to being home alone everyday anyway. They know you are there and trying to keep your distance will likely make them confused and act out to get your attention.
Watch the Calories
It can be tempting to overcompensate for these challenging times by offering your animal a few too many treats. Particularly if you aren’t able to exercise your animal as much as you normally would, seemingly innocuous treats can really pack on the pounds and put your animal’s health at risk. Stick to your normal treat routine and when your animal seems to need a little extra pick-me-up, offer cuddles, attention, and time with you instead.
The most important thing to do to keep a sense of calmness and joy during these difficult times is to make sure you are having fun. While you aren’t going to want to visit the dog park until the social distancing restrictions are loosened, you can still enjoy your time at home with your animal while getting your work done. Take socially distant walks, making sure to maintain at least six feet between yourself and any other walkers you may encounter. If your animal enjoys a car ride and you have the proper restraint equipment in place to keep them safe in the car, take a drive to get a change of scenery. Order some new toys online and enjoy the excitement your animal will feel at their delivery and the joy they will experience playing with you. Make up some games and/or use household items you already have on hand to keep you both entertained. For example, tie some string to the end of a stick to make a homemade fishing pole. Attach a toy to the end of the string and play keep away with your cat or dog. Just make sure to let them catch the toy every now and then so they don’t get frustrated. Use your imagination and have fun.
These are unusual times, but they can also be the time to increase your bond with your animal and make wonderful memories. The key is to be mindful of both of your feelings and behaviors and remember that it won’t be like this forever. Stay positive, create a new routine, and do your best to have fun.