9 Steps to Protecting Your Workplace Against the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

9 Steps to Protecting Your Workplace Against the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

As you well know by now, the World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency in response to the rapidly evolving outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The CDC has requested that companies implement temporary preventive measures. In light of this request, companies have reached out to find out how others are implementing these measures. After talking with several companies and our onsite recruiters, we have pulled together 9 steps that companies are taking to protect themselves from the threat.

Most life sciences companies won’t face the same hurdles as customer-facing businesses but given the complexities of the industry they will face serious challenges of their own. For example, what happens if an entire team of bench scientists is quarantined? They can’t exactly bring their work home. The CDC provides a list of suggestions for labs, but it’s more directed at labs that might be handling specimens related to the virus. So, for research labs or manufacturing facilities, the best course of action is to follow the guidelines below and consult a safety professional.  The important takeaway is to be flexible and have plans in place. If you need assistance with temporary workers, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

  1. Modify Travel Plans

Suspend business-related travel to countries with widespread outbreak (Level 2 and 3 Travel Warnings). Discourage non-critical business travel to international and domestic areas with low threat. Require approval from Executive Team for critical travel. Encourage the use of video conferencing technology in place of travel. If employees have traveled or are travelling for leisure, they should notify their supervisor.

  1. Update Visitor Policy

Employees need to touch base with all visitors (vendors, candidates, clients) prior to any onsite meetings. They should inquire if the visitor has been to any countries with widespread outbreak, if they’ve been sick, or if their family has been sick. If the visitor’s answer is yes, then the employee should cancel the meeting and/or change to remote.

  1. Emphasize Preventative Measures

Remind people to stay home when sick, get a flu shot, wash their hands, use tissues, cover their mouth, use hand sanitizer, wipe down surfaces, avoid touching their eyes/nose/mouth, and avoid shaking hands. Make sure employees know to self-report and self-quarantine if they’ve been to impacted areas or have concerns.

  1. Be Flexible with Sick Time and Offer Remote Work

Employers should be flexible with their absence/sick policies. Do not require medical notes, as healthcare facilities may be too busy. Employers should provide employees with remote access when possible. Employees may need to stay home to care for a sick family member or may not have their regular childcare so being flexible is key.

  1. Clean and Disinfect Regularly

Wash door handles 2-3 times/day. Wipe down tables, chairs, phones, and computers in conference rooms 2-3 times/day. Encourage employees to regularly clean their work surfaces, phones, and computers. Work with facilities or the cleaning company to perform regular disinfectant cleaning for all common surfaces. Make sure you’re stocked on tissues, disinfecting wipes, and hand sanitizer.

  1. Keep in Constant Communication

Place posters throughout the office to remind employees about precautions and updated policies. Send out a companywide email as soon as there is a policy change. Inform employees about CDC updates; acknowledge you are in compliance with the recommendations. Make sure managers are prepared to answer questions and know how to assist employees that self-report or self-quarantine. Remind staff about sick time, short-term disability, and time-off policies.

  1. Implement a Task Force

Create a task force of team-members from different departments/teams/locations. The group should come up with a plan in the event the CDC determines the severity of the threat has increased. Employers should be prepared to refine their business response plans as needed.

  1. Consult a Safety Professional

Some companies, like those with a research lab, may want to take extra precaution and consult a safety professional. You may also consider bringing on a temporary worker to manage the process.

  1. Use Common Sense and Don’t Panic

This list is based off information found on CDC.gov and input from several Massachusetts life sciences companies.

Biotech’s Winter Week Off: A Time to Rest and Recharge

Biotech’s Winter Week Off: A Time to Rest and Recharge

Many biotech companies close between the week of Christmas and New Years, effectively gifting their employees an extra week of vacation time. While some may still have lab responsibilities or projects they need to check in on, this still leaves plenty of extra time to rest and recharge so you can start 2020 off fresh! It may be tempting to try to charge through your to-do list or cram in extra errands and family time, but we encourage you to be mindful about how you spend your extra hours and use them as a way to treat yourself after a long year of hard work! Here are some suggestions to help you make the most of your time off.

Before trying to do anything more productive, take some time to literally put your feet up! Many scientists are on their feet all day in the lab, which can take its toll on your feet, legs, and overall physical comfort. Try the simple yoga pose Legs up the Wall to help reduce swelling, calm the nervous system, and aid in overall relaxation. 5 Benefits of Legs Up the Wall Posture. Of course, putting your feet up on the couch could feel good, too; if you’re looking for some good shows to catch up on, the SciBio team has been enjoying The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Will and Grace, and Derry Girls, as well as some throwback classics like Seinfeld.

Boston, Cambridge, and the surrounding area is a hub of biotech and pharmaceutical companies, which attracts many scientists and professionals to the area. If you are one of the many who relocated to Massachusetts in 2019, the extra days off can be a great way to explore your new home! This list features the 25 Best Places to Visit in Massachusetts while this one is targeted at families: 30 Must-Do Holiday Events & Activities in New England.

Having more time off during the shorter winter days also offers the opportunity to spend more time outside! Being in nature is calming and has far reaching health benefits (How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing), but it’s hard to get outside after work when the sun sets at 4:30 pm. You don’t need to be a winter sports enthusiast to enjoy nature this time of year. You could walk around Boston Common, skate at Frog Pond, or check out one of these hiking trails. You can find more suggestions on this list of Best Winter Activities in Boston. If you are into winter sports, then you are in the right spot as Boston is only a few hours from some of the best skiing/riding in the country.

Of course, one of the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “rest and recharge” is sleep! While it may be tempting to sleep in during a vacation week, it is more beneficial long term to keep within the same general sleep and wake times. However, you can take some steps to make that sleep more restful! Consider keeping a notebook by your bed to list lingering projects and things you need to take care of the next day before you go to sleep so that they don’t keep you up at night. Make sure your phone is on airplane mode or Do Not Disturb; although late night and early morning emails are commonplace in our start-up culture, protecting your sleep time is paramount! Also, take some time to do a sleep analysis of your bedroom: check for bothersome noises, annoying street lights that shine in your eyes, or a bed that is too hot or cold. Adding a sound machine, black out curtains, and adding or removing a throw blanket can go a long way towards helping you get a better night’s rest! It may take some experimenting to find the right combination that works for you, but we know you have those skills. Check out some other tips here: 17 Tips to Sleep Better.

Even if you don’t have the whole week off, we hope some of these ideas will help you make the most of the days you do have off. Let us know what you’re planning on doing this winter break!


Practicing Gratitude: A Game-Changer For Your Career

Practicing Gratitude: A Game-Changer For Your Career

Gratitude is an incredibly powerful, positive emotion that is seldom experienced by so many of us who are caught up in the day to day demands of life. The rise of consumerism, never ending to-do lists and the ceaseless pursuit of enhanced social mobility often means that gratitude is displaced by incessant ambition and this isn’t healthy.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we hear the words thankful and grateful a little more. From #grateful social media posts to customer appreciation pies, expressing gratitude is in the air this time of year. That’s part of what makes it such a special time.  At the same rate, practicing everyday gratitude has become a more prominent cultural paradigm. Perhaps it’s because of the rise in studies on the science of gratitude, or maybe it’s just social media. Whatever the reason, with 7,000 listings on Amazon for “gratitude journal,” it’s safe to say our culture is adopting the practice of gratitude. 

Why is practicing gratitude helpful every day and not just the last 6 weeks of the year? According to The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley, “gratitude may be associated with many benefits for individuals, including better physical and psychological health, increased happiness and life satisfaction, decreased materialism, and more.” Gratitude helps people feel more optimistic, and it helps us slow down in this rapid-paced world of ours.

Taking time to acknowledge the things you’re grateful for can be a game-changer for your overall wellbeing and health, but it can also make a big difference in your career. Here’s how:

For the job-seeker: It’s easy to lose faith in a job search, but this is where a gratitude journal can come in helpful. Take time to write down the successes of your search. Try to view setbacks in a positive light. For example, if you went in for a second-round interview but didn’t make the next cut, remind yourself that you got farther than most candidates. Acknowledge that you are doing better than when you started the search. Here are a few more tips on staying grateful during a job search. 

For the manager: According to PayScale’s report on employee engagement and retention, feeling appreciated at work is the biggest influencer on employee satisfaction, and underappreciated employees are much more likely to leave the company. So taking a few minutes to show your staff gratitude year-round will improve company culture while also making you feel good. PayScale offers more insight into workplace gratitude here and here

For anyone at any point in their career: Regardless of your career status, take a few minutes to remind yourself of your accomplishments. Not only will it help you work harder, but it can also help you be better. This article from Peter Bregman at the Harvard Business Review says that “identifying the things we are grateful for mirrors the areas we are hoping to improve.” According to Bergman “your path to improvement is hidden in your pleasure, not your discontent.” The Muse provides a handy infographic of why gratitude is so important. 

Do you practice gratitude every day? If so, what do you do? Sound off below.

The Key to Success – Combining Creativity and Knowledge

The Key to Success – Combining Creativity and Knowledge

Combining Creativity and KnowledgeLate night in the lab, staring at the data and the computer screen, trying to come up with a solution to a problem. Been working on this dilemma for weeks on end, toiling twenty hours a day and just can’t figure it out. The next day I decide to leave early from work and go for a long run while listening to my favorite music on my iPod. After that a nice bath while enjoying a novel. My mind is anywhere but on the problem. And then – the lightbulb goes on! I have figured out the solution! It was so obvious, but I was completely focused on overworking that my mind couldn’t think outside the box.

Most of us professionals today have the mentality that the harder we work, the more results we produce. However, that is absolutely not the case.  I compare that to a racehorse running with their blinders on – all you do is go full steam staring straight ahead at the finish line without looking around and opening your mind to other alternatives for the solution.

Meditation for Brain Health

The brain needs diverse activities for plasticity and proper stimulation. Different creative activities stimulate various parts of the brain. For example, exercise increases the heart rate, thereby providing more blood flow to the brain and enhancing its activity. Exercise stimulates brain plasticity by increasing growth factors that are crucial for the formation of new connections in the cortical areas of the brain (1). Studies show that meditation helps preserve the aging brain. Compared to non-meditating counterparts, the participants who meditated retained more gray matter and increased cortical thickness in the hippocampus which governs learning and memory (2-3).  Meditation has also been shown to decrease activity in the default mode network (DMN), the part of the brain responsible for mind-wandering.  Hence, meditation improves concentration (4).

Art, music, and literature have just as significant positive effects on the brain and, in turn, on one’s productivity. Whether you are looking at art or creating it, listening to music or playing an instrument, writing for enjoyment or reading, the effects are tremendous. (5-6)

In addition, all of these activities increase attention and concentration while decreasing anxiety and depression. These are, of course, only a few examples of creative activities.  You find what your passion is and pursue it whether it’s taking a walk in nature or cooking a fantastic meal (watching TV doesn’t count!). Every time you perform a creative activity, it will improve your brain plasticity, relax your mind, and take your thoughts off the problem at hand, which in turn, will help you think outside the box.

An excellent example of the importance of the effects of creativity on utilizing knowledge is the Finnish school system. Although a small country that not many know much about, students in Finland consistently score high on the PISA test which includes 72 countries and measures the level of knowledge in science, math, and reading. 93 percent of Finns graduate from academic or vocational schools, and 66 percent go on to pursue higher education (7-8).  Yet Finnish schools have little homework, short school days, and children don’t start school until seven years of age. How is this possible?

Part of the explanation is: that’s exactly why. Besides the excellent quality and training of the teachers, the children get to be children. In other words, they get to be creative.  Emphasis is placed on arts, music, sports and playtime just as much as academic subjects. One might think that this would have a negative effect on learning, but it’s quite the opposite. Children are more focused in class, can concentrate on acquiring knowledge, and learn to be problem-solvers rather than memorizing material.

The Importance of Play

As an adult, we often get so overwhelmed by work, bills, family, and life in general that we forget the importance of ‘play’. Due to all the things we have to accomplish during the day, we don’t allow ourselves to enjoy, to relax. This is detrimental, not just to one’s health and mental status, but also to succeeding in one’s career. We all need to take some time out of the day to enjoy a creative activity of our choice.  There is absolute truth to the old saying ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15159540