7 Tasks to Do During Water Testing Slow Season to Prep for Next Year
The busy water testing season is behind us. During the slow season, it's tempting to sit back and relax. Sure, your staff will need a chance to recover from the big summer push, but don't let this break be the death of productivity at your lab.
Consider using this time to prepare for the busier days that lie ahead. By working these seven tasks into the mix during the slow season, you can keep your staff productive and engaged, and ensure that your lab's in prime shape come the warmer months.
1. Stock Up on Inventory
Slow season is the perfect time to check your supplies and order any nonperishable items that are running low. Order items that won't expire, such as pipette tips and gloves.
"Do a chemical inventory," advises Larissa Hoover, the laboratory technician for Cranberry Township's sewer and water facility in Pennsylvania, in an interview for Currents. "Just look through all your chemicals and check on the expiration dates."
Remove any expired items, and make note of chemicals that will expire soon. Stock up on items that you tend to run out of during the busy season.
2. Review Standard Operating Procedures
Supervisors should be auditing standard operating procedures (SOPs) at least once a year, so why not schedule this practice around the slow season? Be sure to perform tests that are less routine, and make notes on ways they can be calibrated or improved.
If you're a lab manager who doesn't often participate in bench work, you might not think of auditing the more routine tests. However, it's just as important to run through procedures that you could do in your sleep as it is those that are a rarity. In doing so, you may find small changes that you've made throughout the year that you forgot to put in the SOPs.
For example, Hoover changed the total suspended solids (TSS) filter for her lab. Previously, she would prep, dry, and weigh TSS filters, but then she bought new filters that were already prepped and weighed. Later, she realized the SOP needed to reflect that change.
"We were using a heavier crucible, and then when we started using the filter papers, they weighed less," Hoover says. "So I had to get a different gram weight for my balance and make sure I was checking it below that weight. And that's something that I just didn't think about at the time."
3. Catch Up on Marketing Efforts
Your slow season is also your customers' slow season, so use this quiet time to reach out to them. Consider offering discounts or other promotions for this stretch of time. You don't have much to lose, and you might capture a new customer who could turn into a recurring source of revenue throughout the rest of the year.
This is also the perfect time to surprise and delight your existing customers. Send a note to thank your top clientele for their business throughout the busy season. If your lab tests drinking water, this is a good time to seek out more individual clients. And environmental consultants always need testing, so make sure that your lab is the first place they turn to for their needs.
4. Perform Safety Checks
Calibrate instruments, do your sterility checks, and execute all of your overall safety checks. Don't wait until you're underwater to see if everything's in top working order. Doing an overall safety sweep now ensures that when the next busy season or audit rolls around, your lab's already operating with airtight safety procedures.
5. Deep Clean and Organize Your Lab
Get rid of supplies you no longer use, and don't forget about digital clutter. Cleaning out your inbox may feel like a daunting task, but if you tackle it a little at a time now, you'll be less likely to lose any important correspondences.
After decluttering, deep clean your shelving and organize the remaining supplies, leaving enough space for the products you only use during the busy season. Even if your lab employs a custodial staff, let the people who spend time at the bench make the decisions about what goes where. This is the ideal time to revisit your lab's layout, so encourage employees to bring forth any system that may streamline operations.
6. Communicate With Your Team
Did you change any new policies or procedures, or order any different testing supplies during the year? Make sure all documentation is up to date, and communicate with your team about any changes. For example, if you replaced a disposable item with something similar made from recyclable materials, did you tell your lab technicians to put those items in the recycling bin instead of the trash can?
7. Take Time to Celebrate
All the other tasks on this list are important, but you shouldn't get so busy preparing for the future that you forget the hard work your team just did. Celebrate getting through the busy season with a party or company-wide outing. But don't stop there: Making time for fun throughout the cold and dreary months can go a long way with keeping productivity and job satisfaction high.
Boost morale by hosting a team-building activity outside of the lab. And see if there are any fun events your team could do within the community for a bonus marketing push. Consider taking time off, too. Everyone can benefit from taking a step away from the lab to replenish their energy levels — even you. In fact, a little break may give you a new perspective that could help you better power through the next busy water testing season.
Maybe the most important thing to do during the slow season is checking in with your team. Take time to meet with each of your employees and thank them for their hard work over the summer season. This expression of gratitude goes a long way, as a staff that feels appreciated is more likely to work harder for you when you need them most.