Caring for Your Lab Scientists During Covid-19

Milou van der Lans September 16th 2020

With most biotech companies maintaining in-lab work, albeit at reduced capacity, the lab can be a high-risk environment during the Covid-19 pandemic. How do we support our lab employees and ensure their safety during the pandemic? Here are some tips to manage in-lab operations, satisfy employee expectations and ensure our scientists’ safety.

Many companies will be best remembered for how they respond to a crisis, not how they operated under normal circumstances. As scientific research often requires on-location work than other workplaces, organisations are taking extra measures to ensure that their staff feel safe and supported in their jobs. Biotech and R&D companies are employing creative strategies to support and engage their scientists. In order to successfully do so, new guidelines and measures must be implemented for those who still need to go into the lab. In this article, we have collated the most effective measures to support your staff in and around the lab.

1. Set clear guidelines to promote physical distancing in the lab.

To help ensure your employees are less likely to be exposed to the virus and to help reduce the number of stressors and decisions they have to make for their personal safety, you must set clear rules regarding physical distancing for your entire team. Best practices are:

  • Employees must stay more than 1.5 meters apart. This includes in-lab situations but also in-person meetings between employees.
  • Only a certain number of employees can be in a given room at a given time. For example, no more than one person can be in a small lab at a time, and no more than 10% of the normal room capacity can be in larger lab spaces.
  • Employees are only allowed into the lab during defined, staggered shifts. Create shift schedules to be as deliberate as possible about who needs to go in, when, and what lab spaces and equipment they will use.
  • Employees must wear PPE at all times and sanitize lab equipment regularly. Enforce extra hygienic measures, even if they aren’t necessary during normal times, and provide the supplies to do so.

2. Safely manage work by third-party vendors.

If you are still running critical workflows, you will still have critical equipment. Occasionally, that equipment may need to be serviced. If that’s the case, we recommend putting in a two-sided contract to ensure that adequate safety measures (even temperature checks) are taken by the vendor and the scientist, and that the vendor is given adequate directions and space to do their work.

3. Implement new processes to ensure clear team communication and seamless handoffs, even without physical interaction.

When allowing employees to go into your labs, ensure that each knows exactly what their goal is when they go in for a shift, to clearly document lab progress for other team members to access, and to keep lines of communication open, even without physical interaction. You can use team communication tools such as Slack for this, or a digital R&D team environment such as Labstep to do so.

Labstep is a provider of scientific data management software for R&D organisations across industries (Biotech, Pharma, Biology, Chemicals, Agriculture etc) who need to manage, capture, share and use data effectively.

The Labstep platform is an end to end flexible research environment that connects your notebook, inventory, applications and data in one collaborative workspace.

To learn more about Labstep’s lab inventory management module, get in touch. Contact us or book a demo today.