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Manager Minute

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Here are three things lab managers can do to help lab staff transition successfully back into the lab.
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Three Keys to Transition Back to the Lab

Lab managers need to provide work environments that enable people to re-incorporate into full in-person lab work

he past two years have been difficult on most of us with significant changes in how we live, how we work, and how we interact with others. Some labs had to deal with the challenges of how to work in-person through the entire pandemic. Other labs are now needing to address the challenges of bringing the whole team from a hybrid situation to being together again in the lab. The problems of the pandemic have forced people to change. The team you reassemble in the lab may be different from the one that moved to hybrid or remote work many months ago. Lab managers need to be sensitive to those changes and provide work environments that enable people to re-incorporate into full in-person lab work. Here are three things lab managers can do to help lab staff transition successfully back into the lab.

#1 – Ensure safety

In the past, we worried about actions in the lab with respect to safety. Now we need to worry about being infected with COVID-19 while working in the lab. Some people have internalized all the uncertainty and fear from the pandemic, which makes it difficult for them to work in-person like they did prior to the pandemic. Helping staff feel safe in the lab is vital to their ability to contribute. Think about establishing clear ground rules for the lab so everyone feels safe, use more video technology to connect people, and seek ideas to improve how safe the lab feels to staff.

#2 – Listen to everyone

Make the time to talk to staff one-on-one. Listen to the concerns about returning to the lab full-time. What are their concerns, and what ideas do they have to address those concerns? Listen carefully for what else is going on in their lives. Maybe some of the root causes of their concerns have more to do with their life at home than their work in the lab. Maybe some work flexibility or accommodations can ease the transition. Work hard to connect with the people who are the least likely to speak up. It’s important that everyone’s voice is heard.

#3 – Plan some fun

Budget a little time and maybe some money for fun and social interactions for the lab. Try to replace some of what we all lost during the pandemic. Remind lab staff of the benefits of working together. Be patient with people that are out of practice with social interactions after nearly two years of isolation. Some staff may be out of practice and low in confidence re-establishing social connections. 

The pandemic has been hard on all of us and challenged us in different ways. Even people who found social interactions easy before the pandemic might be severely challenged in them now.


Thanks for reading. I hope you can use this information. I am very interested in hearing from you. If you have feedback or comments on this set of tips, or suggestions for future Manager Minutes, I’d love to hear from you. Please reach out to me at shanton@labmanager.com. I’m looking forward to our conversations. Thanks.