I have been working from home full time since long before the stay home order. I’m lucky to have that opportunity. I am fortunate to have solid support and an income. I am lucky that my business has continued to survive the economic disaster that the pandemic has caused. I run All Safety Consulting located in Kingston, Ontario. I always remind my staff of the importance of balancing work/home, and I always say family and health first. 

However, I have found that because I’m always ”at the office’ I don’t stop, ever. I start as soon as I open my eyes in the morning and end my day by writing my to-do list in my calendar for the next day. I accomplish this task while propped up in bed; usually, around 1:00 am. I work into the night and on the weekends. I answer emails no matter what time of day or night they are received. 

The pandemic has taught many of us that we can do our jobs from just about anywhere. Those of us who do the majority of our work on a computer that is. The problem with this is that it has evolved into something that could become an epidemic. 

I feel as though I have to answer the phone or respond to an email anytime, anywhere. I get anxious when I try and say to myself, “they can wait.” what follows is a negative dialogue with myself, which leads to more anxiety. 

I work through breakfast, through lunch and more often than not, through dinner with my phone or laptop next to me at the table. I even have my phone right next to the shower, just in case. 

My five kids, now grown, will tell you I had strict rules about electronics at the dinner table. That was a time to connect with each other. I’ve told the youngest to “make sure you take time for yourself.” He is a second-year engineering physics student at Queens with a heavy workload. I suggest to one of my other sons he needs a mental break from caring for his two toddlers and his recently disabled partner. I insist my staff not to work after hours. I’m home, but I feel disconnected from those I live with; I’m here, but I’m not.

So, why am I not able to take my own advice? I figure that, due to my field of work, I don’t want to let down my clients, especially in the middle of a pandemic. Are most of the calls or emails urgent? Nope! Could the person wait for a reply? Yes! But still, I cannot ‘leave work’ at the end of the day. 

As I ponder this dilemma, I realize my stomach is churning because I’ve had emails while writing this! When I check them, none are urgent; most are questions they have answered in the email. I am like a helicopter parent and can’t stop. 

I have tried forwarding my phone to my very capable staff but feel I’m having them do my job. I’ve put an out of the office on my email only to continue to reply. 

This business of mine is like my child. I created it; it has grown; it is now established. I hired a team who could run it without me. But… I can’t let go for any part of a day. Like many other business owners, we are all in the same boat. Even with our dedicated staff there is still a feeling that we have to protect our business against fallout from the pandemic. 

I feel guilty in feeling this way as I watch and read the news. The devastating stories of lost loved ones, of lost businesses that have been family-owned for decades. Of children losing their parents. Of parents losing their children. Of the by-products of the virus.  Suicide, depression, addiction and loneliness. Do I have a right to feel this way about working too much when others have lost? 

There is a little irony with the constant stress that I put myself under, while running a Health & Safety Consulting company.  It only helps me to better understand how hard companies need to work to protect themselves and their employees against situations that could exacerbate mental fatigue and emotions. It helps me understand they need assistance from a company like ours. Perhaps this is why I do it, perhaps this is why I don’t want to let anyone down.

Is it about control? I’m sure most will say it is.  I do not micromanage my staff, at all, ever. I hired professional adults, and that’s the way I treat them. I only micromanage myself. Leaders often ensure their staff are protected against the metal and emotional stresses of the situation in which we find ourselves. Who ensures those leaders are protecting themselves.