It is April 2020 and we are right in the middle of the Coronavirus Crisis. The Governor’s orders have forced many people to work from home. In addition to a jump in people Zooming and investing in new tops for their wardrobe, are the growing number of people working from home. One issue people are running into is being distracted from work, by their lovable pets. How can you stay mad at those faces? If you are in this boat, welcome aboard. Some of us have been dealing with our doggos distracting antics for a while. Let me help you navigate these choppy waters of cuteness. Learn all of my best tips mastering the WFH balance with two crazy dogs pining for my adoration and constant attention.
My biggest tip to help get your work done at home with animals around is to set up an actual home office. You do not need a dedicated room but you do need a dedicated space. If you live in a city, you may have to have multipurpose. The rest of us can most likely carve out a section of our homes, and call it an office. You obviously need a desk, a chair, and to be near an outlet for your computer. Thankfully, right now there are some wonderful sales going on for home office furniture. If you can’t afford a new desk, repurpose an old folding table, even a door on top of two sawhorses! This is going to give you some type of physical boundaries. That says to your pups, “When I’m here in this spot you don’t get love.” My dog Annie is the big attention seeker. If I have a down moment and decide to work on my laptop on the couch, forget it, she is going to literally climb over my laptop in order to cuddle. However, in my office, I have a standing desk with a counter height chair. She can try to stand up and get me but it’s not going to work. For my dogs’ comfort they have a bed right next to my desk, which they stay glued to most of my work day. It took awhile for them to get used to our arrangement, but now they do not bother me as much when I am at my work desk. They know it’s an exercise in futility.
Ok, so the dogs don’t bother me as much. But every few hours they obviously need to go out to the yard. I use their breaks as a segue into my own much needed breaks. I bring my empty coffee cup to the dishwasher, get a glass of water, eat some lunch or a snack if needed. I try to refresh and relax for a bit so that I can go back to working and hopefully be more effective. If you don’t time your breaks at the same time as your dogs, you are going to be up and down the entire day. And since we know that after being distracted it takes up to 20 minutes to get back on task, it can be difficult to get anything done after taking too many breaks.
For Annie and Elvis, walks are the medicine that calms them immediately. Many dog experts recommend up to 45 minutes of dog walking per day, especially if your dogs are having behavioral issues. But the amazing thing is that walks are actually really good for humans too. For me personally, a walk during the day helps my mood, my attention span, and my stress level. If I am feeling especially wound up, I often use a walk to gain clarity and insight into the problems I’m dealing with. After a walk, Annie isn’t nearly as needy for attention. And Elvis is barking at much fewer things outside. Overall, they just get into less trouble. You will be able to tell when your dogs could use a walk. My dogs will start wrestling loudly and chasing each other around the house. Or Annie will get the “Zoomies” and she starts running full speed from one end of the house to the other then up the stairs and then from one end to the other again. That is when I know. If you start having bad behaviors, just take them on even a short walk around the block. It gives them some simulation because they get to sniff and see how many other dogs were in that spot. And it gives you some exercise and time out in nature (depending on where you live). Build up to 25 minute or longer walks. Even if you only have time for once around the block, still go. Lots of shorter walks will add up over time. Caring for animals is an essential service, so you could always pay a dog walker to come if you don’t have time or the physical ability to do it yourself.
Having extra time from not commuting, taking kids to school/activities, or being able to do anything fun like go to a restaurant, gives you an opportunity to invest time in different more productive ways. Spend some of the time training your dogs. Many of us already have purchased training treats at some point and have them laying around the house already (cleaning out the closets and finding them is a topic for another blog). Take 5 minutes in the morning to do some basic commands with man’s best friend. Start with basic commands like sit, stay, and work your way up to more advanced commands like roll over or high 5. This mental exercise will expend some of that extra energy they need to get rid of in order to not bother you during your work.
If all else fails, you could take your doggie distractions to Doggie Daycare. The staff will be able to spend their time and energy providing care for your pooch while you actually get your work done in peace. If daily daycare is out of the question, perhaps you could try one day a week, and focus on getting as much accomplished on that day as you can. Your dogs will get some social interaction and you will get some uninterrupted time to get into flow on your work. Plus, you will be supporting a local business, which is a wonderful thing to do right now and always. Some dog daycares even offer you the ability to watch your fur baby play with the others on a live feed camera. Others train your dog. Many are offering contact free drop off and pick up. It is a wonderful easy solution to the work from home conundrum.
With the President’s Social Distancing guidelines staying in place until the end of April, it seems many of us are not going to be returning to the office any time soon. If you are a WFH newbie with pets, it is a great time to take some steps to prevent your working hours from becoming your petting pup hours. Take these tips to limit the dogstractions to your work day and get more done faster. It is impossible to completely get rid of distractions from your animals, but reducing them will be a big help. While it can be nice to take a minute to pet your dog after a stressful client call, it is not nice to slack off while working from home. Minimize distractions and get back to work! While the virus crisis will not last forever, working from home is a great tool to have in your toolbox. You never know when a snowstorm or another event will make working from home a necessity once more. Set yourself up for success, you may never want to go back to the office grind after working from home.
Melissa Draving is a Local Business Owner, Personal Concierge, and Speaker.
She works with clients virtually writing content, editing websites, managing email, schedules, and travel for clients.
She lives in Emmaus, PA with her husband and two Beagles Annie and Elvis.