With many people’s jobs prolonging work-from-home status, employees have had to grapple with the many distractions the home environment produces. Housework, loud neighbors and children all call for attention, but one less-expected distraction is your pets! Meowing, barking, eager to play or just excited that you are home, your pets might be what’s preventing you from staying focused during the workday.
Fortunately, there are ways to minimize your pet’s distracting behaviors with a little planning. If you need a break from your furry friends to get some work done, here are a few tips.
1. Start your days with exercise
One of the best ways to ensure that your pet stays calm throughout your workday is to make them tired! Get up in the morning and take your pet for their daily walk or run, and maybe even stop to play a short game of fetch or tug-of-war before heading inside.
For cats, dedicate 20 minutes each morning to playing with feather toys, laser pointers or balls, so they run and jump a lot.
By exercising with your pet first thing in the morning, you’ll tire them out and get them ready for a calm nap while you get to work! Supplement this with a brief walk over lunch if your pet is particularly energetic.
2. Provide self-entertainment
Dogs and cats don’t need us to entertain them 24/7, even if that’s what they’d prefer. While you might be able to multitask and play at some points of the day, you’re probably going to want your pet to stay calm during a meeting or when you’re up against a deadline.
To help with this, find fun ways for your pet to entertain themselves. Puzzle toys with treats inside or frozen KONGs containing a treat are great ways to make sure your pet stays laser-focused on their task in another room. You can also feed your pet their mid-day meal with this method.
Avoid giving your pup toys with bells or squeakers while you’re home and opt for quieter toys like plushes and chews they can play with anywhere. If you need quiet, close the blinds to ensure your dog doesn’t start barking at passerby or outdoor animals.
To help cats stay entertained, consider installing a cat tree or hammock near a window where your kitty can watch wildlife and birds. Interactive toys can also provide entertainment, such as automatic laser toys or hanging toys your cat can bat around.
3. Create a comfy quiet zone
It’s perfectly fine—and even preferred—if your pet does not spend the entire workday by your side. Encourage your pet to relax and take a nap in their own space by setting up a quiet zone elsewhere in the home. Pile your dog’s or cat’s bed, blankets, toys and comfort items in this space, so they can retreat there to relax throughout the day.
Cats might be more inclined to make your desk their home as you work. To encourage them to stay off your keyboard or paperwork, set up a cozy spot near your desk, like a floor cushion or chair with a blanket, where your cat can curl up with you in their sight.
4. Build in fun breaks
It’s not reasonable to expect your dog or cat to leave you alone for a full eight-hour workday. Build in a few break times where you give your pet some snuggles and play with them some more to let them know they’re loved.
This might be the perfect time to try some training and mental stimulation with your pet, so they stay enriched.
5. Maintain a routine
Cats and dogs are fond of routines, so they’ll come to expect a sense of normalcy as the days go on. Once you create a routine, make an effort to stick to it, so your pet knows what’s expected of them and doesn’t get anxious.
If you start your day with a walk for your dog, followed by mealtime and work, and then another break for lunch, do these things at the same time each day. This will help your pet develop predictable behavior, so you know when your most productive periods are.
6. Don’t reward attention seeking
Most importantly, remember to stay firm and remain in charge with your pets as you work from home. It might be tempting to break the rules and let your pet cuddle on the couch as you work when they never used to before, or to take a break to play every time your dog starts barking, but doing these things can lead to undesirable behavior down the road.
If your pet is whining, meowing, barking or crying for your attention but their needs have been met, don’t reward them by giving in. Focus on your work and stick to the usual routines for playtime, mealtime and exercise.
If the attention seeking is out of hand, you may need to shut your pet out of your workspace during the day. Your furry friend might protest with barking, meowing or scratching, but stay firm if you’re committed to keeping them out over time. Giving in will only teach your pet that whining gets them what they want!
Enjoy your pet’s company and stay focused
Workdays are always better when you’re in the company of your pets, but they don’t have to come at the expense of your productivity! Make a plan to keep your pet exercised, occupied and well-behaved while you work from home to enjoy the best of both worlds.