The pandemic forced companies around the world to learn how to operate remotely. While some companies are now welcoming employees back to the office, many have permanently adopted remote or hybrid work arrangements. These flexible work environments offer numerous benefits, but they also bring new challenges. We talked with medical malpractice lawyer Robert McKenna III about his top tips for managing a hybrid office.
Hybrid offices combine in-person and remote work. Employees travel to the office for part of the week and telecommute for the rest. It’s a best-of-both-worlds solution, but managing a distributed team of people engaging in various work modes can be tricky. Robert McKenna III has identified several keys to success that ensure his hybrid office thrives.
About Robert McKenna III
Raised in Hilo, Hawaii, McKenna holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and a juris doctorate from Loyola Law School. He has a Martindale-Hubbard rating of “AV,” the highest level of professional excellence, and was named a Super Lawyer by Los Angeles Magazine for 15 consecutive years.
McKenna is a member of a wide range of professional organizations, including the American Board of Trial Advocates, Association of Southern California Defense Counsel, Defense Research Institute, and Medical Malpractice Professionals.
A father of two, McKenna is also highly involved in the community. He works with the Long Beach Junior Chamber of Commerce and Long Beach Community Medical Center Foundation, and he serves on the Ethics Committee at St. Mary Medical Center. He was a Boy Scout leader and a Girl Scout leader for his children’s troops. In his spare time, McKenna is a competitive paddler and sailor who enjoys surfing, fishing, free diving, scuba, and masters swimming.
During the pandemic, managers like McKenna became aware that highly effective remote work was possible for their teams. “It became clear that most people can get their job done remotely, and that there’s not a decline in productivity or work product,” says McKenna. “People can manage their time and their work.”
Companies also noted benefits to remote work, such as better work-life balance, time and money saved on commuting, and reduced operational costs. Still, team building and communication sometimes suffered, and some employees found that they preferred in-office work.
McKenna says, “There were some people that voluntarily came into the office. For some folks, their apartment or home was not really conducive to trying to work for eight hours a day.”
As returning to the office became a possibility, McKenna and his team opted for a hybrid model. “We decided that experienced administrative staff would only come in two days a week, because there are still some things that work better with having somebody in the office,” he explains. “They get to pick what two days they come in. It’s been a very collaborative, cooperative effort to make sure there’s at least a skeleton crew every day, so not everybody’s working from home on Mondays and so on. We’ve been doing that since May, and it’s been working well.”
Pros and Cons of Hybrid Work
In-office work and remote work have their advantages, and hybrid work harnesses the power of both. Employees enjoy increased flexibility, save time and money on commuting, and can still come into the office for location-based duties and collaborative work sessions as needed. Some people believe they are more productive at home, while some believe their productivity increases in the office. Hybrid work allows for a balance that can benefit a variety of work styles and preferences.
McKenna also notes that remote and hybrid work models can make scheduling easier. “Trying to get five people from across the country to meet in Chicago on a Thursday or a Friday was almost impossible, and now you could probably line that meeting up within a week. You could just find a slot of time for everybody to get on a Zoom call.”
On the other hand, switching back and forth can be emotionally draining for employees. Some concerns about remote work also extend to hybrid work, such as the possibility of decreased collaboration and employee loyalty. Companies must avoid a disconnect between remote and in-office workers, and they must ensure all employees have the tools and equipment necessary to do their jobs.
Ultimately, with the right processes and policies in place, companies can thrive in a hybrid work model.
Keys to Managing a Hybrid Office from Robert McKenna III
While transitioning to a hybrid office, McKenna learned what works and what doesn’t. His keys to success include inventorying processes, providing necessary supplies, creating productive workspaces, and setting healthy boundaries.
If you’re considering transitioning to a hybrid model, start by inventorying your business processes. Which routines or tasks must be completed in-office? What can your team successfully do from home? Do you need the entire team to have the same in-office days?
McKenna says, “I spent two or three weeks looking at the business to determine what needs to be done in person. I realized all we needed was one person in each office to pick up the mail, scan it, and send it off to whoever needs it. We also needed the same person or a different person to come back in the afternoon to print, address, and send outgoing mail for that day.”
He settled on two days in-office for each administrative staff member, then collaborated with his team to determine who would come into the office on which days.
Hybrid work will look different for your company depending on your needs and processes. Some hybrid offices require people to come into the office three days per week, either all on the same days or on staggered days. Others allow employees to come and go freely, while requiring everyone to return to the office for specific meetings or events. Take inventory of your own workplace to determine what will work best for you and your team.
Provide Necessary Supplies
If your employees will spend some of the work week at home, it’s essential to ensure they have all necessary equipment and supplies. Do they have a stable internet connection? Will they have access to the files and computer programs they need? What else do your team members require to complete their jobs successfully?
“People needed a good chair. Some people didn’t have laptops. So, we got them a laptop. We’re cloud-based, so people can be anywhere and sign in any time,” says McKenna
Create Productive Workspaces
To work effectively in a hybrid office, you’ll need to create a productive workspace at home. For your employees, provide necessary resources and supplies, then follow up to ask if there’s anything else they need for their home workspaces.
For yourself, create a designated space in the home where you can be productive. Find a quiet area that allows you to focus and get into a productive mindset. For example, McKenna advises not working in your bedroom. Separate spaces typically “feel” more like work, increasing your motivation and productivity.
Similarly, it’s helpful to have a work-from-home routine that puts you in the proper mindset for working. McKenna says, “Whatever you do on the weekend, don’t do [that] during the week while you’re working. Create a separate routine, even if it’s putting on a different kind of shirt or just showering and shaving when you wake up.”
Set Healthy Boundaries
Many people struggle to set healthy boundaries when working from home. Since there’s no clear boundary between “office” and “home,” some employees work longer hours, increasing the risk of burnout. Encourage your employees to maintain healthy boundaries, and lead the way by setting healthy boundaries for yourself, no matter where you are during the workday.
McKenna says that with the increased prevalence of remote work, he has also noticed an increased expectation of near constant communication. “People say, ‘I know you’re on vacation, but we have a virtual conference. Can you do that? You have internet.’ And the turnaround time people expect on text messages and emails has dramatically shrunk. People want instantaneous reassurance that you’re available to respond at any time.”
Over time, these longer hours and expectations of constant communication can result in exhaustion and decreased productivity. It’s important to encourage healthy practices like logging out of the computer and no longer responding to emails after a predetermined time.
When you’re on vacation, make it clear that you will not be available for meetings or work-related communication, and set this expectation for your entire team and their vacations as well. “You have to avoid the temptation to say, ‘yes’ too much during that timeframe,” says McKenna.
Make the Hybrid Office Work for You
It takes time to adjust to a hybrid office arrangement, but you can set a solid foundation with Robert McKenna III’s keys to success. Take the time to inventory your processes and determine what sort of hybrid arrangement will work best for your company and your team. Establish clear plans, processes, and goals so your employees know what to expect.
Ensure that your team has everything they need to succeed, and create a productive at-home workspace for yourself too. Encourage your team to set healthy boundaries to avoid burnout. Maintain the same boundaries so you can lead by example.
With this foundation for in place, you can establish a hybrid office environment that is balanced, productive, and successful for you and your employees.