Fostering Positive Workplace Culture: How an ELN Can Promote Collaboration and Teamwork

Digital Solutions

Nikal Saval is an expert on how our environment at work affects our mindset and output. In his book Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace, he examines how the office cubical affects employees productivity, attitudes, and well-being. He posits that office design influences how employees think and feel about work. Although Saval’s focus was on office workers, his ideas regarding the effects of the workplace environment can be extended to the laboratory, as well. Like the cubical, the tools that managers choose to deploy within the laboratory may affect how employees perceive their own work and the work of others.

cubicles
Cubicles do not necessarily allow for the collaboration some companies need for maximum productivity.
Courtesy of Flickr user Tim Patterson

For example, a tool that is universally used by all laboratories is the laboratory notebook. Upon examining how the basic paper laboratory notebook is designed, we notice significant details:

  • Difficult to Find Information – The paper laboratory notebook is a system built around recording and storing information, not retrieving it. Once information is recorded into the notebook, it is difficult to locate later.
  • Difficult to Share Information – If you do come across relevant information within a paper laboratory notebook that could be useful to a colleague, the only way to share this information is to make a copy of it. Since the process is so labor intensive, it discourages people from sharing.
  • Difficult to Contribute – The definition of synergy is that the combined total is greater than the sum of the individual parts. However, with a paper laboratory notebook, everyone is encouraged to act individually, recording their individual thoughts and their individual ideas within their individual notebook. Collaboration is not a goal or focus.

Based on these attributes, it appears that the paper laboratory notebook is perhaps only ideal for capturing a single individual’s ideas, results and conclusions. It empowers the individual to act alone and does not encourage collaboration or teamwork.

However, in today’s laboratory environment, the solo scientist will not go very far. As research becomes more complex and expensive, there is a greater need for collaboration. Furthermore, when companies establish a workplace culture that promotes strong bonds among employees, it is better able to achieve increased positivity, motivation and productivity. To encourage and cultivate teamwork within the laboratory, managers need to implement tools that facilitate such activities. One way to reduce individualism and encourage more cooperative efforts is to implement an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN).

By switching to an ELN, lab managers are working to address:

  • Collaboration – Since the content is digital, it is easy to share the information with other colleagues. Results and ideas can be disseminated among multiple researchers with minimal effort.
  • Duplicate Prevention – One of the primary benefits gained from an ELN is the ability to search the testing results not just within your own notebook, but across the laboratory. If you identify a similar test that has already been performed, an ELN also allows you to access the original notes and review them before conducting further research.
  • Team Building – Since results are searchable and shareable, the prevailing attitude within the laboratory shifts from the individual to the team. Instead of focusing only on their own work, researchers gain access to a broader perspective that includes a better understanding of what other people are working on and how their own work contributes to the bigger picture.

    An ELN has tools and functionality that encourages teamwork.
    Electronic laboratory notebooks are designed to encourage teamwork.
    Courtesy of env.dtu.dk

If you are looking for a simple way to encourage your employees to work as a team, perhaps consider changing the tools they use in the laboratory. Electronic laboratory notebooks, like the ones designed by Accelrys, encourage synergy and collaboration, and help to facilitate communication and interaction between researchers. If you would like to learn more about the Accelrys electronic laboratory notebook, please visit our website today.

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