Ability to Adapt, Prioritize Are Keys to Boosting Productivity

By Kevin Ritchart

With limited staffing, a finite number of working hours, and a wide array of tasks to complete, lab managers are always on the lookout for methods that will make their facility more efficient. The challenge is finding ways to ramp up productivity without sacrificing the health and safety of employees or the accuracy of results.

From helping employees learn to manage their time more effectively to updating lab layouts to create a more functional working space, there are a variety of things lab managers can do to have a positive effect on productivity.

Adapt and Overcome

At its core, time management is the decision-making process that structures, protects, and adjusts a person’s time as it relates to changing environmental conditions. Years of research have shown that the three key skills separating success from failure in time management are awareness, arrangement, and adaptation.

Awareness is maintaining a realistic view of time by recognizing it as a limited resource. Arrangement is organizing your tasks and goals to use your time effectively. Adaptation is monitoring your use of time while performing tasks, and adjusting to interruptions and changing priorities.

Prioritization and Productivity

When it comes to optimizing productivity, it’s vital to focus on tasks that are aligned with your overall objectives and leave the less pressing matters for later. One method that can help in this pursuit is to employ the Eisenhower Matrix of Prioritization. This approach helps you to prioritize your tasks by classifying them into four categories: urgent and important, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and neither urgent nor important.         

Using this approach can help reduce the number of unimportant tasks that are completed as a means of appearing busy, when in fact those tasks are having the opposite effect on your overall productivity.

Staffing and Sterilization

Like any area where people congregate and interact, labs had to adapt their operations and designs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the more successful strategies for encouraging social distancing and enforcing new health and safety guidelines include staggering shifts to have fewer employees in the lab at one time, implementing new protocols for traffic flow, an enforcing the use of additional personal protective equipment.

But despite these additional steps, sanitizing remains the most effective means of combating infection, both inside and outside the lab. Life sciences labs, many of which already employ strict sterilization protocols, have adopted enhanced cleaning measures used by the hospitality and medical industries.

The equipment that’s used most often is identified by the lab manager and cleaned on a regular basis to help reduce the risk of contamination. By employing this approach, the need to shut down equipment for longer periods of time to perform deep cleaning is minimized, which can help increase productivity.

Room to Move

While they’ve been given greater focus during the COVID-1 pandemic, expansion of lab space and enhanced sanitization are here to stay when it comes to optimizing safety in the lab.

Some companies may seek out new, larger facilities or reallocate existing space to accommodate HVAC enhancements, store additional cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment, and add bench space to give employees ample room to perform their tasks.

While these strategies for improving productivity and adapting lab layouts can be useful, it’s important to note that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to enhancing productivity. It may take some time to develop an approach that fits your unique needs.

This content was inspired, in part, by “Designing Labs for Productivity,” Lab Manager, February 28, 2020; and “Time Management Is About More Than Life Hacks,” Harvard Business Review, January 29, 2020.

Kevin Ritchart is a Thermo Fisher Scientific staff writer.