When I dreamed recently of arranging a Zoom meeting for my dog, I awoke to the reality that my home companion had morphed into my work mate. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many norms, while cementing the favorite-person bonds with our dogs.
For many people, having a dog or other pet at their workplace is nothing new. However, for a lot of us, it is a new experience. Sudden barks, unexpected licks and relentless stares have become part of our home office routine. We may have wondered what our dogs did all day. Now we know. If only I could nap that well – and often.
Our continual presence at home clearly upsets the daily routine of our dogs. Their continual presence also affects our routine. Despite occasional interruptions, studies show dogs boost remote worker productivity. Maybe it’s the friendliness of a familiar, fuzzy face. Maybe it’s a reassuring nuzzle on the leg. Or maybe it’s their puppy-eyed appeal to take a break, grab a treat and go for a walk.
Constant contact with our dogs – whether shushing them, shooing them away or tossing a ball – positively affects our health. For example, stroking a dog stimulates the human immune system. Having a steady companion can ease the anxiety of isolation. Dog life helps us remember our kitchens and cubbyholes are parts of our homes, not office space.
Gurus advise how remote workers can coexist with their dogs – and how dogs can adjust to us always being around. Their advice includes paying attention to your dog before going online and reserving a special space away from where you work to interact and play with your dog. Setting boundaries will be appreciated by your dogs. Keeping their water bowls full and doggie doors open will be appreciated even more.
If you can, see work-at-home as a chance for intensified, in-person, non-outsourced dog training. One remote worker created an indoor agility course for her dog. Based on social media posts, many remote workers dressed up their dogs (and sometimes themselves) in outlandish outfits, taught their dogs new tricks and shared new toys with them – all in the spirit of a ‘tired dog is a happy dog’.
My own advice – put dog beds in multiple places in your home or apartment so your pup doesn’t feel trapped in or obligated to one spot near your feet. This is especially important if you are exercising the liberty of not showering and wearing your pajamas day and night. Remember your dog’s sense of smell is around 100,000 times keener than yours.
My own advice – put dog beds in multiple places in your home or apartment so your pup doesn’t feel trapped in one spot under foot.
It helps if you aren’t overly self-conscious when your dog barks at a delivery man at the door in the middle of an important Zoom meeting. Keep in mind, others on the call probably have dogs at their feet, too. If calls get overheated or you are angered in some way, make sure you don’t take out your frustration on the dog. Petting them and taking a doggie break could be good ways to vent for both you and the dog.
Perhaps most important, enjoy the opportunity to work remotely alongside your dog. Consider it a perk, not a problem. The relationship can do a lot for your work-life balance. A wet nose can be pretty soothing if you let it.
This commentary is about working remotely with dogs, not cats. If you have a cat at home, you’re on your own. I’m allergic to cats. Even the thought of cats makes me sneeze. Good luck. You’ll need it.
Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm’s PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.