4 Tips for Achieving Work/Life Balance During the Holidays

During the holiday season, those working in water testing labs struggle as much as anyone to find a good work/life balance that affords them time with their loved ones. As a water lab manager, you face the same challenge while also having to worry about keeping your business running efficiently with reduced staff. But breathe easy — it's possible to enjoy all this season has to offer and keep your lab afloat.

Here are four work/life balance tips that can help you keep your personal and professional lives on track this holiday season.

1. Close Out End-of-Year Projects

The first rule of thumb for making it through this busy time is to predict the most important projects and responsibilities that'll need attention. While water testing is a year-round business, there's an ebb and flow to the business cycle. Managers should always take advantage of possible slowdowns but particularly during the holidays, so all efforts can be focused on the tasks that must get done by the end of the year.

To check off all your end-of-year to-dos without straining your staff, be sure to:

  • Check the calendar to determine when the holidays actually fall, then determine coverage needs accordingly, recognizing that many staff members will be hoping to take off extra days to prepare for the holidays or travel.
  • Spread any necessary responsibilities across the staff as equitably and fairly as possible, understanding that staff members are likely to have as many pressures on their schedules — not to mention, on their minds — as you do.
  • Distribute routine tasks, such as equipment inventory or inputting data into your LIMS, evenly among staff members to allow greater flexibility in scheduling.
  • Share your lab's schedule for the season — including all deadlines for equipment maintenance and reporting — with your team well ahead of time as the final working weeks of the year approach.
  • Be as generous as you can with vacation time without putting your lab or the staff working the holidays in an impossible situation. Allowing employees more time off can boost morale and give them a chance to recharge, but it may not be feasible to approve every request and still maintain the level of quality customers expect.
  • Keep track of how you arrange schedules and responsibilities so that the same employees aren't on holiday duty every year. Consider having your staff rank which days they'd like off, so you can ensure all duties are covered while facilitating the work/life balance your employees need to bring their best to your lab.

2. Square Away Your Budget

At the end of the holidays comes the new year, and for many managers, that means having a budget ready to go. If you've been efficient, you may well have already completed your budget, which certainly puts you ahead of the game. If not, you may have to hustle to complete it while navigating the holiday schedule.

Even if your budget is complete, the holidays are a good time to review it to ensure you're ready to hit the ground running once 2020 rolls around.

3. Take Care of Yourself

The holiday season is invariably a period of stress for everyone. That's why it's so important to prioritize self-care as you work in overdrive to keep your lab running smoothly and accommodate your staff's needs and requests.

This means remembering to do the things that help you maintain your health throughout the year, which can often take a back seat during times of heightened stress. Some of these include:

  • Making time for exercise. Regular movement can help reduce feelings of stress while enabling you to clear your mind, at least temporarily, of what's been weighing on you. Even a short walk at lunchtime may help you renew your focus for detail. Doing some rounds at the bench could help you break the habit of sitting in your office for hours on end.
  • Eating well during the workday. This habit is much easier said than done, but when cookies or sweets are presented to you — which will happen a lot during the holidays, as you know — try to be strong and limit your indulgences so you can still enjoy yourself at after-hour social events.
  • Drinking a lot of water. Perhaps the simplest suggestion, but it's important to drink water to stay hydrated. It's easy to opt for coffee and all the sweet drinks that emerge this time of year, but drinking too much sugar can cause dehydration. While everyone has different hydration needs, Harvard Medical School recommends most healthy individuals drink between four and six cups of water a day.

4. Celebrate Your Successes

The end of the year is an optimal time to look back at all you've accomplished, both on your own and with your staff. Perhaps your lab landed a new major client or rolled out a new test offering; perhaps a staff member got married or had a baby. Ideally, your collective achievements were a little bit of both. Regardless, it's a good time to congratulate yourself and share that sense of accomplishment with your coworkers. After all, the holiday season is a time for celebration and joy!

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Jeff Rowe
Writer and Editor

For the past 25 years, Jeff Rowe has worked as a writer and an editor for the nonfiction and professional markets, including researching, writing, and editing feature articles, blog posts, speeches, project reports, and magazine essays. He has published numerous articles and essays on developments in health care and health information technology, the home medical equipment market, natural resource and environmental issues, and food topics. He has also been editor and community manager for numerous industry-targeted websites, as well as author of a developing series of novels set in medieval Spain.