For pet owners, working from home during the pandemic means coping with cats scampering across computer keyboards during Zoom meetings and pooches barking over phone calls.
Most people don’t mind: They like the comic relief.
Maureen Harty’s 11-year-old white shepherd Eoghan, for one, has become an honorary member of the work group.
For the last 20 months, Harty, executive director for an NCAA Division III college athletic conference, has spent much of her days on Zoom calls with officials from Illinois and Wisconsin.
She conducts videoconferences from the couch. By her side is Eoghan (Gaelic for Owen), whom one conference official dubbed “the canine commissioner.”
“Everybody takes it in stride. No one’s even fazed by it anymore,” the Mount Prospect resident said.
Eoghan helps Harty maintain work-life balance. For example, when a call goes on too long for his liking, he noses Harty’s face as a signal to end it.
“He’s become quite the character,” she said.
Eoghan’s not the only pet making an impression on Zoom.
Rebecca Kwasigroch’s cats, Puck and Gully, devised some especially inventive antics to secure their owner’s attention during work hours.
Rebecca Kwasigroch’s cats Puck, left, and Gully often crash her Zoom meetings at her Rolling Meadows home.
– Paul Valade | Staff Photographer
Last summer, she was in her basement office on a videoconference call when the door to a high cabinet swung open and Puck sprang out, startling the Rolling Meadows woman and her colleagues.
“I saw the door swing open. All of a sudden this black ball of fur comes flying out,” she said.
Since then, it’s been 15-year-old Gully interrupting business-related Zoom calls. Gully accesses Kwasigroch’s office by hopping onto a bookshelf, crawling between the ceiling tiles and into the cabinet from which she leaps into the room.
Kwasigroch typically warns co-workers a flying feline may interrupt the calls. Now they look forward to it, she said.
When it comes to spending time with his humans, Jabba the bulldog is nothing if not equitable, splitting his day between Nikki Kozlowski and her husband, who have both worked from their Schaumburg home through the pandemic.
Jabba’s loud snoring during Zoom calls has prompted colleagues of Nikki and Greg Kozlowski to inquire whether someone on the videoconference had fallen asleep.
– Courtesy of Nikki Kozlowski
Named after “Star Wars” character Jabba the Hutt, the 5-year-old English bulldog charges into the room like a bull, Kozlowski said.
“He doesn’t have manners conducive to corporate culture,” she said, referring to Jabba’s occasional flatulence and loud snoring that prompted one of her husband’s colleagues to inquire if someone had fallen asleep during the call.
Mickey Mantas understands the challenge of owning a vocal pet. Bella, her 10-month-old Labrador/golden retriever mix, has the voice of a pirate and an equally distinctive belch. Mantas says chatting about pets, like sharing stories about children, creates a bond between co-workers.
“It’s a way to get to know each other since we’re all remote,” she said.
Mickey Mantas adopted Bella from Wright Way Rescue in Skokie earlier this year. Since then, the 10-month-old pup has been the Arlington Heights woman’s faithful work companion.
– Karie Angell Luc/for the Daily Herald
The occasional Bella-related interruption provides a hearty laugh for everyone on the videoconference, Mantas said. Having a pet is a healthy diversion, she said, because it requires her to step away from the laptop several times a day.
“It brings the anxiety level down a couple of notches,” she said.
Belching aside, the Wright Way Rescue pup is a companionable workmate, the Arlington Heights resident said.
“She’s not disruptive. She listens and she behaves,” she said.
Not all pets are so well-mannered. Take for example Jackie Gray’s cat Barbara-Angel, known as Bad Girl. About seven years ago, Gray was working remotely when Bad Girl stepped on the laptop, hit ctrl + P and printed out 800 pages from a cat food account the grocery store consultant was working on.
“At the time I didn’t have a separate office in my house,” Gray said. “Now I do.”
Jackie Gray’s cat Barbara-Angel, also known as Bad Girl, once struck ctrl + P on the laptop, printing out an 800-page document.
– Courtesy of Jackie Gray
Years later, upon gaining access to Gray’s office, the 12-year-old cat still wreaks havoc when she wants attention, pushing her owner’s laptop closed or mewling during phone calls. In response Gray offers her colleagues a caveat: “If you hear something, it’s my cat losing her mind because she can’t come in here,” said Gray, who was less tolerant of noisy pets before the pandemic.
“As a boss, I was less forgiving,” she said. “It’s very different today.”
Like Gray, first-time cat owner Samantha Farejowicz has trouble keeping 2-year-old Cheeto away from the laptop, which he has inadvertently locked on several occasions. He’s most often found curled up behind the computer.
“That’s where the heat is,” she said.
Two-year-old Cheeto curls up for a nap behind owner Samantha Farejowicz’s laptop.
– Courtesy of Samantha Farejowicz
Adopted this year, the affectionate Cheeto has been a source of amusement for Farejowicz and her colleagues. But the Palatine woman worries he’ll be lonely when she returns to the office, based on the pet camera images taken when she’s away.
“He looks sad and bored sitting on the arm chair he’s claimed as his,” said Farejowicz, who’s tempted to adopt a second cat to keep him company.
Arya, Jack Lipski’s 18-month-old French bulldog, finds ways to occupy herself at his pet-friendly office.
– Courtesy of Jack Lipski
That’s not a problem for Jack Lipski’s French bulldog Arya. The companionable, 18-month-old pooch is a regular at the dog-friendly telecom company where Lipski works. So far, the only glitch came during a conference call when she got hold of a computer cable and pulled it.
Overall, when it comes to pets in the workplace, Lipski said the benefits outweigh the detriments, adding the presence of dogs increased office morale.
“It’s been all accolades,” he said, adding, “My co-workers tell me, ‘Make sure you bring the dog in or don’t come in at all.'”