Work/Life Balance: Tips for Lab Professionals

Work/Life Balance: Tips for Lab Professionals

Work/Life Balance: Tips for Lab Professionals

Posted on the 14th of Aug 2019 by Westlab

Working as a lab professional means sacrifice, time and effort. This applies to any position of academia. This raises the question as to whether a work-life balance in this profession exists. The truth is, it depends on the researcher.

1: Work out what you can go without

An academic job—particularly research—will always require sacrifice. For many, work is life, otherwise, they would not have chosen that profession. Laboratories are a highly specialised area where one must have passion and dedication to make a difference. Working in a lab can prove rewarding and satisfying, particularly in research. Therefore, document what you can afford to sacrifice (don’t be too harsh on yourself) so you know exactly where the line is drawn between work and life. Is my family more important than my potential cure for MND? Can I afford to give weekends to work and leave the family because I have too busy a schedule or vice versa? Or you may not have the responsibility. In any case, work out: how can I acquire a substitution for household responsibilities—if I need to. For some, the laboratory profession will have to be reconsidered if personal life means more. After all, there are plenty of jobs out there that offer fewer hours, better pay, and more relaxed life.

2: Set goals & break down your tasks

Break down all your jobs into checklists with a final, achievable goal that you can chip away at. How do you set your goals? A great way to apply purpose to each area of your life is to use the SMART methodology.

S: Specific. Your goal must be specific: “get 20 samples analysed by x time”. This gives your goal clarity and a clear point of reference.

M: Measurable. You need to be able to measure your goal— by time, by figures, or both. This will give perspective and show where you can improve, or what you are capable of.

A: Attainable. “I need to find the cause of SIDS with $50 by next Friday.” Isn’t that a little far-fetched?” Set the bar so you can reach the goal – not without pushing yourself, of course.

R: Relevant. Set goals for you, in your department so they relate to the work you are doing and in turn, relate to the ultimate goal of your institution/department.

T: Time-bound. If your goal is not set to a date or time, you may never reach it. Setting the duration of your goal makes the above four points achievable; they will come to life.

Setting a SMART goal allows for a greater sense of achievement with your program. How does this give you more personal time? You will find that your work becomes far more efficient, organised and easy to achieve when you have a clear line of sight towards the result.

Break down your tasks after setting goals so that you can clearly see the objective. Planning procedures and contingencies will help you stay at maximum output, maximum efficiency and in turn, maximise private time. Or if you are passionate, maximum work time.

3: Keep your lab organised

Keeping your lab organised accounts for efficiency and productivity, and in turn, more time for the employee. ‘Staying organised’ is very broad and can be applied in any circumstance. Keep it clean – wipe down equipment after use, store your equipment appropriately, don’t clutter your space with glassware and equipment. And importantly, set up workflows and processes which allow you to make your lab systematised and workable. This may even include 20 minutes every week to reflect on your work and encourage each other. Keeping your lab organised allows the scientist to stay efficient and keep work output to a maximum. Doing so will encourage you to spend more time with your family and achieve the steps above; you will be able to plan your life with greater freedom.

4: Be flexible and pragmatic

To achieve a favourable work-life balance, you need to be practical with considerations for responsibilities. You may have important events such as meetings or lectures, or a delicate procedure which requires specific times. Sometimes these are unavoidable. Therefore, make your time flexible—if putting in an hour’s work on a Sunday saves you 5 hours on Monday and Tuesday, do it. Take the day off on Tuesday and you can balance your personal time. If you know you can take time off, grab the opportunity and switch off from work for a while. You may find it makes you more efficient and revitalised the next time you go to work. Other times, you may have a great decision to make. Go see your child’s high school graduation ceremony, or deliver the lecture at Deakin? Either may prove more rewarding. Some like to have the valuable once-off experience of family time. Either way, flexibility with your work schedule could prove valuable that you do not lose either family time that you cannot buy back or another step towards your goal at the lab.


Work-life balance is not a noun, it’s a verb. Change is the only constant, and you will have to constantly adapt to the changing world of science, and your changing personal life. Whatever you balance this as, there are four main steps: take a moment to work out your sacrifices, set goals and break down your tasks, keep your lab organised and be flexible with your work. You will then be able to find the balance that fits.

2019-08-14 22:31:00
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