From WFH to BTO: Final Countdown

If you’ve been working from home all this time, you know how nice it is to have a coworker you raised yourself (unless, of course, that is a human child—this can be much more of a challenge). Peaceful interaction with your dog or cat is, without a doubt, the best way to combat job stress because it is 100% safe, requires no hourly fee, and is legal in every state. You will never find a better colleague, as long as you can ignore his tendencies to saucily throw a ball at you during inopportune moments, edit your work while you are at the bathroom, or insist on showcasing his immodest butt at every single Teams meeting and Zoom. The closest you will get to office politics with your own dog or cat is when he lies (again) about being fed this morning.

So it is going to be hard on everyone when the back-to-office phase of your career supplants that WFH routine. A gentle transition program for you and your current coworker should be initiated as soon as possible. Start by leaving the house at your projected departure time every day, even if it’s only for a minute or two. If your coworker starts to panic, shorten the interval and try again. Even if you can only jingle your keyring and slam a few car doors at first, that’s a solid start; work your way up from there. Don’t make a giant big deal about leaving the house; you both will need to view it as merely a new piece of the routine, like the time you adopted a sourdough starter.

Now this might seem harsh, but it’s time to cut down on the water cooler chit-chat; the silence in your home is going to be deafening when you eventually leave for the office. Cuddle time will need to migrate to its new situation, which is before and after work—not during. You’ll want to shut the door of your workspace so coworkers can experience alone time during the day and learn to function independently. Try for a few minutes at a time, then lengthen the interval gradually. A special toy might need to be provided during alone time (for the pet, not you) so that this part of the day isn’t so boring. You may need to get a crate for these times, and it’s fine if you want to call that the Executive Lounge. Just don’t furnish this with anything the executives can shred and swallow. There might be some crying, but you will want to be strong knowing that a gradually implemented change is the best way for both of you to adapt. Equip your desk with a box of tissues.

Some dogs (but virtually no cats) will be unable to cope with their new, independent lifestyle. If stepping back and proceeding more slowly with the plan doesn’t help, consider doggy day care or a pet sitter. If those aren’t options, be sure to consult your veterinarian: a behavioral specialist or medical therapy might be needed.

Dr. M.S. Regan