To quote someone in the team, they see the scientist role as the "doctor or nurse” of the water cycle. I feel this is a very accurate description and I have never appreciated the role our team carries out more than now. We are only really still beginning this, and the importance of our work will only grow as we prepare to contend with higher levels of absence throughout Scientific Services.
The major challenge we face is to keep our teams in the laboratory at a safe distance. Our working space was not originally set up with social distancing in mind – but the specialised analysis we do can’t be carried out from home.
We had to act fast - going from a very busy environment with everyone working either from 8am until 4pm or from 12noon until 8pm, we now have three teams that should not see each other. We have agreed new working arrangements stretching from 6am right through to 10pm, with only 1 team allowed in a lab at a time. Changes have been made to the reception area where samples are received too, with access now closed to all but essential people. We have really stretched the team by asking them to do this, however every single person was willing to do what they could to get through this.
No flights also means that some samples from the islands are coming across via ferry, which we have also adjusted for. Management gave up their office and are now working remotely to create a temporary area for the scientists. We are all in contact regularly over Skype. The team truly have gone above and beyond and it’s made me really proud of them. If they read this, they will cringe at that comment– but I’m not sorry!
At our other laboratories near Edinburgh, similar changes have happened with working patterns. There is also a ‘pop up’ microbiology lab being developed which will become a training area for people that have either returned or retrained from other labs. Who would have thought that was possible a month ago?
What we have built up is resilience in both numbers, as we keep much more separation, and also in training. We will continue to review the situation weekly with the team and make changes as necessary depending on how the situation evolves. It’s already been an amazing effort with everyone working together from all areas of the organisation. It really is that - plus the hard work and dedication from all of our key workers - that will get us through this.