Working Remotely in a Lab Environment
Covid-19 has opened up new opportunities for online research - find out how you can take advantage of remote work in a laboratory environment.
But does that paint a realistic picture of today's research laboratory environments?
Most lab professionals would say no – today's reality is quite different.
In the last two decades, more and more laboratory research is taking place outside of traditional wet lab settings, thanks to rapid advances in computer software and big data analysis.
What Lab Managers Need To Know About Managing A Remote Lab Setup
During the height of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown in 2020, many lab managers suddenly found they needed to create new policies and procedures to allow those normally working in so-called "dry labs" to transition to working from home (WFM).
Of course, many of these lab managers were not starting from scratch – as many commercial and academic labs already had long-standing (often informal) policies that allowed employees to work from home one or more days a week.
As you might imagine, many lab workers with long-term experience working from home found the transition to full-time work outside the lab to be a fairly smooth one.
However, just as in the case of office managers, lab managers also found it necessary to provide significant additional support to those workers who had little or no experience establishing a functional home office.
These workers often required coaching to overcome common technology challenges, e.g. connecting to a secure VPN to access remote files; learning best practices for conducting meetings using videoconferencing systems such as Zoom; or using groupware tools, such as Slack, effectively.
Lab managers also had to confront how to develop and maintain a cohesive and productive team, despite the fact they now rarely met face-to-face. They discovered that many of their traditional "people management" practices, such as making daily rounds of the laboratory to find out what each person is working on, didn't translate well in an online, virtual work environment.
Much to their chagrin, the act of constantly checking in with employees "to find out how they are doing" often came across as an annoying or even aggressive micromanager.