Six Ways To Reduce Stress In The Lab


Conflict management,
effective prioritization,
timely decision-making and more
can reduce employee stress.


     The news and social media are filled with stories about the negative impact of work stress on individuals and organizations.

     Workplace stress can have a huge negative impact on laboratory workers and laboratory managers. While doing technical scientific work in the lab can be challenging, it doesn't cause most stress-related problems in the lab. Most frustrating stress is caused by unfortunate human interactions, lack of resources, and lack of decision-making.


     Here are six ways lab managers can reduce stress on lab workers:

1. Conflict management Conflict management

     Resolving interpersonal conflicts in the lab can be difficult. It's important to be aware of how staff members interact and take action before a lab conflict turns into a war between two factions of the lab.

     It is crucial to hear from both sides of the conflict before making a decision. A key to conflict resolution is understanding the needs of both parties. Once the requirements are understood, engage in dialogue and seek a win-win outcome.


     In this case, people get what they need, but not what they want. Resolving conflict restores the ability for everyone on the staff to work together to deliver science, rather than focusing on who is winning and who is retaliating.

2. Maintain laboratory assets Advocating for assets

     Insufficient staff, equipment and space are stressful for lab workers. They need help and tools to solve tough technical problems in the lab.


     To better maintain laboratory assets, develop a list of prioritized needs for the laboratory that will be investments that address the top issues facing the laboratory. Once the top needs have been identified, build a business case for them, clearly identifying why the need is important, how it will be addressed, and the full costs and benefits of the solution.


     Calculate return on investment (ROI) expressing costs and benefits in monetary terms. Present the business case and ROI to line management with a clear plan of action.

3. Make prompt decisions quickly

     One of the primary responsibilities of laboratory management is to make critical decisions for the benefit of the laboratory. Not having these decisions can cause the system to pause, wait, and wander.

     It is difficult for lab staff to remain effective and motivated while waiting for a decision. Collect and analyze data to inform decision-making and ensure lab staff's opinions and ideas are heard and understood. Then make a decision.


     Most of the lab's decisions can be improved or changed based on what happens next. It is rare for a lab manager to have all the input and knowledge needed before making a decision. Know that a suboptimal decision is much better than no decision at all.

4. Dealing with difficult people

     In a lab, one person who influences the team can easily put pressure on others.

     The solution to difficult behavior is to stop it directly. Most influencers operate in the shadows, lacking direct intervention. A good way to shed light on this behavior is to ask questions and reinforce the positive atmosphere in the lab.

5. Expanding coverage Expanding coverage

     Working long hours without rest is a major source of stress. Employees need breaks and vacations to relax and refresh.

     Ensure everyone in the lab has the right coverage with planned cross-training and development. Build coverage maps that show gaps in training and remind employees that there are others who can help.


     To keep skills fresh, make sure everyone in the coverage program has the opportunity to work consistently in their coverage area.

6. Effective prioritization

     A major source of stress is an excessive workload.

     Lab leaders play a key role in prioritizing work so important work gets done and personnel understand what can be delayed.

     Dwight Eisenhower developed an effective prioritization tool. Contrast all work with its importance and urgency.

     Do the high importance and high urgency work first. Schedule high-importance and low-urgency tasks next. Budget a certain amount of time for low-importance and high-urgency work, and stop all low-importance and low-urgency work. This prioritization will allow lab workers to be more productive and reduce stress.


     The key to achieving these improvements is being proactive and addressing stressors when they are small and before they develop into insurmountable obstacles.

     It often takes courage to go into difficult situations by taking proactive action, but it's much better than trying to fix long-standing problems.


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