Personal, professional joined at hip

Employers must understand and adapt to their workers’ personal struggles.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

I try to be relatable without getting too personal in this space each month, but for this issue, at least, I’m breaking that self-imposed rule.

I’m tired. More than that, I’m exhausted. No, I didn’t stay up too late the past few nights binge-watching a favorite show on Netflix. I go to bed at a perfectly responsible time most nights, but I rarely make it through the night without being awoken once, twice, three times.

I’m also not a father to a newborn. With two (over)active boys ages eight and three at home, I’m happily done with that phase of my life. It is one of those boys, though, that gets me up most nights.

My oldest son, Isaac, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was just four. There are a lot of misconceptions about Type 1, but suffice it to say it’s terrible, unrelenting, and there is no cure.

“We can’t just detach the personal from the professional side of ourselves, and we shouldn’t have to, not completely.”

So for the past three-plus years I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night, most nights, to check his blood sugar and either administer a dose of insulin if it’s high or get him to eat a few fruit snacks in his half-asleep state if it’s low. Technology like his insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM) helps, but only to a point. The truth is, even if his CGM doesn’t alarm in the middle of the night to alert me to a high or low, I still often wake up hearing phantom beeping in the dark.

His life is as normal as we can make it, but there are still some harsh realities that keep me awake at night. Thanks to Type 1 diabetes, it’s likely his life will end roughly 11 years earlier than it otherwise should. Type 1 diabetes can be managed, but that doesn’t make it any less deadly. Low blood sugar can kill him in the short term. High blood sugar can get him in the long term. The insulin he depends on to keep him alive can also kill him if he has just a few drops too much.

So for now, I let him sleep and willingly take that burden onto my shoulders so he doesn’t have to — not yet. Still, I’m exhausted.

My suspicion is many more of you out there have your own reasons for going into work at less than 100% most days, no less valid than my own. The problem is it’s hard for many of us —guys especially — to admit when we’re struggling. It seems a lot easier to just lower our heads and push through the difficult times rather than bring our personal lives to work with us.

That’s wrong. Wrong for so many reasons, but mainly because we can’t just detach the personal from the professional side of ourselves, and we shouldn’t have to, not completely.

So this month’s message is simple. Don’t be afraid to talk to your co-workers or bosses if you’re struggling with something in your personal life. It’s better to let them know about it — and see if any accommodations can or should be made to alleviate some of your stress and not allow your work to suffer — than for it to result in sloppy work, burnout, or something worse.

And bosses, be receptive. It’s not easy admitting one’s struggles, and we all need a little help and compassion from time to time. (Or even just safe spaces like this column to blow off a little steam and collect ourselves before getting back to work.)

Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.