2020 was the year that the world went remote, and in 2021, the modern workforce will continue to adapt to virtual and hybrid lab workflows. To get your lab prepared for the year ahead, here are 5 labs who have taken the transition to remote work in stride to inspire you to redesign your lab to better support hybrid or remote work structures.
Washington State University
The Washington State University lab workers didn’t skip a beat when they transitioned to remote work in March. They quickly converted to using remote collaboration tools. Primarily, they used Microsoft Teams for remote direct messaging, team discussion channels, and aggregation of Microsoft Office files. By using a remote tool suite, WSU lab employees were able to keep all of their project files in one place where any team member was able to edit remotely, enabling user-friendly remote collaboration.
WSU also integrated the video conferencing platform Zoom into their Microsoft Team setup, so they could easily start and share Zoom meetings on a moment's notice.
University of Central Florida
The college of sciences at the University of Central Florida has enacted a three pronged approach to transitioning to distanced labs.
- Through virtual labs, students have the capability to digitally access simulated experiments in order to view real experiments without setting foot in the lab
- During remote labs, students and faculty are able to access lab equipment via the internet in order to perform their own digital experiments and virtual laboratory tasks in a fully-remote lab environment
- With University of Central Florida Apps, students are able to access desktop software that is typically reserved for campus computer labs on their personal devices, so they can maintain the full lab student experience without being on campus.
University of Georgia
Dominik May, an assistant professor in UGA’s College of Engineering, is optimistic about the global shift to remote learning and remote lab operations, and is adamant that labs make the switch to remote tools.
“In the time of COVID-19, remote labs are sometimes the only way to do experiments still using real equipment, and classes like engineering rely heavily on experiments,” May said. “One of the core elements of these classes is that you get to know the equipment, and you get to learn the theory behind doing the experiments. If you cut out the experimentation piece, you cut out a big portion of the curriculum.”
To allow students to remotely access their lab classes that they would typically attend in person, students at the University of Georgia are relying on modern remote tech tools to attend their labs virtually.
San Raffaele Scientific Institute
When the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan closed down on-site operations to due COVID-19 in early 2020, employees were advised to make all the necessary preparations to work from home. Employees of San Raffaele made the transition to remote work with the help of remote communication tools such as WhatsApp to help them stay connected, and stay productive at a safe distance. They have multiple different group chats, each one with a specialized purpose in order to maintain organized lines of communication.
Immunologist Anna Mondino has also encouraged her remote workers to create a healthy remote work-life balance, “Researchers must also save time for themselves: if you never stop working, you will burn out.”
University of Washington
In Seattle at the University of Washington lab, the shift into the new normal of remote work has been largely organized by Google Sheets. With different sheets filled with prioritized tasks in accordance with different levels of urgency— essential, priority, and needed— lab members are able to seamlessly collaborate from a distance.
On the Google Sheet lab workers can assign themselves tasks, leave one another notes, and communicate their contingency plans. Additionally, the Google Sheet has a tab for emergency supply orders to ensure that on-site research isn’t delayed any further once it is safe to return to the lab.
To keep your remote teams connected and as productive as ever in the new year, create your own unique lab setup using live video, collaborative technology, everyday communication apps, or whatever your lab comes up with.