Be aware of the occupational health risks associated with your research.
- You will need an induction and may need to undertake a number of training courses (to ensure that your training is always up to date).
- When you are taught a new lab technique, ensure that you ask about the relevant safety information (check the SOP/COSSH).
- If working with tissues/patients you may need a formal Occupational Health risk assessment.
- You may be able to request a University Occupational Health assessment if you have concerns about your lab set up (e.g. repetitive strain injury from pipetting, poor posture or painful legs from prolonged standing at the bench).
- Check the department’s policy for working outside of normal office hours: ideally let someone know where you are and when you’re expected back and familiarise yourself with the out of hours safety procedures/contacts.
- Looking at a computer for a prolonged time can cause eyestrain and bad posture. Take the time to optimise your workspace from the start as you’ll spend many hours there. You may be able to request a University Occupational Health assessment. Consider the following:
- check chair, desk and screen position and height
- check whether a mouse or scroll pad would be better for your wrists
- consider whether you will use a laptop or PC- if using a laptop long-term, elevate it to the correct height and connect it to a keyboard, mouse and laptop easel
- Make sure you take regular breaks. There are a number of apps which can be used to remind you to take breaks (e.g. the TimeOut break reminder) or to encourage you to stretch (e.g. Sworkit)
- Stay hydrated and remember to break for lunch.
- Take your annual leave: it’s tempting to work through it, but a break will do you good and you’ll come back to research refreshed, energetic and enthused.
- Look after your physical health.
- Look after your mental health. Academia can be tough. Use the support networks available to you e.g. family, friends, colleagues, mentors, supervisors, postgraduate tutors, University counselling/online resources e.g. bigwhitewall.com(which some Universities subscribe to)
- Optimise your work-life balance
- Decide what is most important to you
- Decide how satisfied/ ‘fulfilled’ you feel in the different aspects of your life. Print a Life Balance Wheel from https://www.fettke.com/wp-content/uploads/Life_Balance_Wheel.pdf. Draw a line to indicate how satisfied/fulfilled you feel (the outer edge of the circle represents ‘fully satisfied’ and the centre represents ‘not at all satisfied’). Decide how you will work on the areas where satisfaction is low. Re-review periodically to check if your changes are working.
- Protect your work-life balance:
- be realistic
- be assertive enough to say ‘no’ to some things
- don’t waste time feeling guilty