Social neediness has changed. Remember back in the olden days – that would be March for some, when you worked in a traditional office? At least once a day you spotted a chatty coworker headed your way down the hall and you thought, “quick, hide, shut the door, here comes Randy, I’ll never get any work done!” Today, working from your home office, the landscape of social neediness takes on a new look. Your coworkers, aka your pets, are thrilled to see you, so thrilled in fact, they stick to you like glue. For those of us with furry four-legged coworkers, social neediness has changed, but it hasn’t really left our lives.

 

The cats may feign indifference, but then they show you their loving helpfulness by walking across your keyboard or joining your Zoom meetings. Spending more time with family is one of the top reasons people give for wanting to work from home. Our furry friends are surely an important part of our family; however, they do present us with some serious challenges when working from home. We may find ourselves from day to day, toggling back and forth between the emotions of annoyance and frustration to the peace and joyful calmness we gain from having them around.

 

True WFH (work from home) confession and lesson learned. Back when I still drove to a high-rise office building every day, I also kept a home office and would occasionally work from home. I was a rookie WFHer in those days and made a very rookie mistake. I forgot to put the dogs outside before a scheduled conference call. It was a sales call and my goal was to make a favorable impression on some business executives that were considering hiring our company to provide services for their company. They had no idea I was working from home, and my plan was to keep it that way.

 

Right when it was time to call into the conference number, the dogs started going crazy.  I put the phone on mute and moved from the living area into my room, which had an entryway with a door and shut the door. That did not work. It still sounded like they were barking directly into my phone. Still on mute and scrambling to solve the problem, next, I shut the second door inside the bedroom after the entryway door. The barking was still really loud. The dogs were losing their minds over something. So, I went into the bathroom which was inside the bedroom and shut that door. Still way too loud. So, I went inside the closet inside the bathroom, inside the bedroom and shut the door.

 

By then I had to take the call off mute since people were waiting on me. The next words I heard were “Is that a dog?” Needless to say, I did not get that account! They were not at all impressed and told me so. My mistake hit me in the pocketbook. It was a hard lesson but I never made that mistake again. As much as I love my furry coworkers, I did not want them on my conference calls ever again.

 

We’ve been working from home since 1996, however, in March, a large number of people had to switch to teleworking due to the pandemic. Of that large number of people, 47% claim they hope to continue working from home even in the post-Coronavirus era. At the same time, working from home may be fun and relaxing but also challenging for pet people.

 

Let’s go through the main struggles and benefits of working with a furry coworker.

 

Boundary issues. As alpha dog, you are the main pack member. Wherever you go, they go. They follow you upstairs, downstairs, inside and outside. They love to ride in the car with you, or go get the mail with you. They just all-around love to be with you. It is good to have such loving company and companionship, however, they definitely have boundary issues and may even try to steal your food.

 

You are the alpha. It’s safe to say that it is up to you, as the boss of your home office, to establish the boundaries in a way that is beneficial to both you and your pets. In some work from home jobs, like ours for example, it is necessary to get control of background noise in your home office environment because our phone calls are recorded and go to the clients, or in some cases, people are on live conference calls with clients. Having our furry friends joining the calls is not an option. In my case, I made sure I had a door on my home office and a doggie door to the outside.

 

Pets help us destress. It is important to take breaks through the day, and that’s a great time to destress and take a moment to pet the cat or feed the dog, and even viewing goldfish in a tank will give your brain those necessary minutes of relaxation.

 

The good news is that it is a lot less likely that you’ll come home to a shredded sofa or your socks and underwear out in the backyard due to your pet’s separation anxiety. Even if the fur babies are not sitting at your feet all day, they have less separation anxiety than when you were gone all day. At your home office you are the boss, having taken your proper place in the pack, and the whole workplace now will adapt to your labor practices according to the principles of unconditional love balanced with the practical aspects of getting your work done from home.

 

Tracie Chancellor