Tips for Maintaining Productivity at Your Lab During the Holidays
Of all the challenges that come with being a water lab manager, maintaining productivity through the busy holiday season certainly ranks near the top. After all, it's the time of year when you and a majority of your staff are juggling many more personal and professional commitments than usual, and it's easy to let core responsibilities slide amid all the shuffle.
The trick is figuring out how to maintain employee motivation while your team is distracted with all of the celebrations on the horizon. For lab managers, this starts with setting an example and reiterating that there's plenty of time for fun once all the work's done.
Find a Healthy Work/Life Balance
During the holidays, it's tempting to take on extra work to cut your team some slack, but doing so may leave you burnt out. Not only that, it can set a bad example for your employees of what a healthy work/life balance looks like in this industry. Find a reasonable balance — one that allows you to finish all your work and still attend holiday functions, and help your staff do the same. If they do need help getting their tasks done, empower them to speak up. Make sure everyone is chipping in and working as a part of the team to tie up any loose ends.
Keep Routine and Timely Goals Top of Mind
It's important that your staff remains focused on client projects while also progressing toward end-of-year goals. Before the season is in full swing, take time to review your lab's to-do list. Then, pick a regular staff meeting to discuss how the next several weeks will need to flow so everything gets done. Make it clear to all that while the holidays are an inevitable distraction, everyone needs to maintain productivity.
Start a Seasonal Tradition
At the same time, don't banish holiday cheer from your office. Maintaining the right balance of fun and work can go a long way toward keeping your staff in good spirits and on task. A good way to facilitate this is by establishing a ritual that's unique to the holidays and your office. Perhaps it's a holiday bake-off or a team outing to support a local charity. Don't be afraid to think outside the box.
Additionally, pick some small ways to reward your staff for another year of good work and to further celebrate the season as a team. That could mean having half-days during the holiday week, offering a small gift or cash bonus to everyone, serving up a catered lunch, or hosting an after-hours party.
Define Your Lab's Holiday Schedule Early
Scheduling can be complicated under the best of circumstances, but it becomes particularly complex this time of year. It's rare when an employee doesn't have an added request during the holidays, such as to accommodate travel to and from distant friends or family.
It's best to get at least a tentative holiday schedule in place as early as possible. That way, everyone has a clear understanding of what resources are in play to meet client expectations, and they can begin to plan their time outside the lab. An early, tentative schedule also allows a chance for employees to discuss the weeks ahead among themselves and perhaps make some swaps or adjustments that can be incorporated into the final schedule.
Involve Employees in Next Year's Business Decisions
As the year comes to a close, show your employees you value their insight by keeping them involved in the decisions regarding next year's operations. Reiterate that without them, the lab wouldn't be able to run smoothly, both during the holidays and beyond. When employees feel valued, they're more likely to work hard toward your lab's big-picture goals.
Take this time to also ensure that everyone's on the same page about what's coming next. Use routine meetings as a chance to discuss long-term strategies and goals for the lab. Don't just speak, though, ask for employee input and acknowledge good ideas that are brought forth. Come prepared with prompting questions, too, such as: "What equipment would you like to see added to the lab?" and "How can the lab improve on data management?"
Put the Spotlight on Your Employees
As a water lab manager, it's part of your job to consistently communicate performance expectations to your staff. So now that that's out of the way, use the holiday season as an opportunity to recognize and commend your staff on meeting and surpassing these expectations.
Acknowledge their hard work and contributions, both individuals and as a part of the larger team, and thank them for a year of outstanding effort. Consider granting awards during your lab's holiday party or offering holiday bonuses or gift cards to those who went above and beyond this year.
When the holidays are around the corner, it can be hard for your employees to focus on anything else. By helping them find the balance between work and celebration, you can ensure that this season at the lab is more fun, fulfilling, and productive for everyone.