Attorney Robert McKenna shares his insights on the hybrid workplace

The pandemic forced employers to introduce strategies into the workplace never before seen. Leaders like Robert L. McKenna III had to implement changes to help businesses thrive during the pandemic and in the aftermath. One of the most critical changes to business operations was the introduction of a hybrid work schedule.

As a founding partner of the California-based Kjar, McKenna, & Stockalper, Robert McKenna felt an early responsibility to keep his employees safe as word of the pandemic began to spread in 2020. Having connections in the biomedical field alerted him to the seriousness of the coronavirus early on. McKenna began to plan for the potential of office closures before shutdowns were mandated nationwide. Before closing the office, McKenna had strategies in mind to continue operations during the pandemic by having staff perform most duties offsite. Having a cloud-based business model already in place helped streamline the hybrid office process for McKenna’s law office. The preparation by McKenna and his team ahead of time reduced employee turnover while competitors began to lose staff in droves.     

Benefits of a flexible office

Robert McKenna quickly noted the benefits of creating a hybrid workplace environment. As a medical malpractice attorney, McKenna’s law firm was predisposed to succeeding in a hybrid setup. During the pandemic, productivity didn’t go down, and there was no decline in employee performance. According to McKenna, he witnessed the opposite result and found that hybrid workplaces gave staff a chance to prove their value. McKenna says, “People can manage their time and work.”

However, not everyone found virtual offices ideal for their workloads. McKenna recognized the challenge for some and advocated for the option to work from home or return to the office. As a compromise between virtual and in-person, McKenna’s law firm determined a hybrid approach worked best. Administrative staff members work twice weekly in person, with the rest of the duties performed at home during standard business hours. With a schedule in place for in-person and virtual hours, staff have more flexibility without losing the support of management. McKenna points out that face-to-face interactions are still needed, but not for employees to remain in the office for forty-hour to fifty-hour workweeks.

Hybrid models offer more than just safety to employees. The staff has more freedom in geography and can save money by eliminating their daily commute. Employees can relocate to areas with a lower average cost of living while still working at their city jobs. Hybrid work schedules also help teams achieve a better work-life balance. Maintaining flexible schedules in a post-COVID landscape has improved overall employee satisfaction for McKenna’s legal staff.

Management experiences the benefits of a hybrid workplace as much as the rest of the team. McKenna has pointed out, “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 time slot for everybody to get on a Zoom call.”

Planning for a hybrid office model

Robert McKenna would never say developing a hybrid office strategy is easy. It takes more than simply stating that workers will only go into the office part-time. His biggest takeaway from developing a hybrid plan was to divide work into groups. One group features in-office duties, while the other consists of at-home tasks. By breaking down the tasks, managers can easily decide who must remain in the office and at what times.

Planning out a hybrid model that works isn’t achievable overnight. As per McKenna, “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 needed 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.”  

Once management knows who will work from home and during what hours, the company must evaluate the supply needs of remote staff. McKenna believes a common mistake is employers requiring staff to provide their personal equipment for work. Build employee trust by purchasing any supplies needed to complete tasks at home. Providing laptops, tablets, and other office equipment makes it easier for all to perform onsite and offsite tasks.

Employers need to communicate with employees to confirm they have a space within their homes to work. The area should be free of distractions and feel like an office space. Businesses can offer training on how to create a productive workspace offsite.  

Managers and employees need to understand the importance of boundaries for a hybrid office to succeed. Remote work has made clients more demanding, and the expectation is for immediate response times. Although many feel remote work offers more free personal time, the opposite can occur. Employees could feel burned out by extended hours and increased client demands. McKenna advises staff to lose the mentality of taking work with them everywhere. Instead, he insists on employees answering calls and emails during a set timeframe and logging off work devices at the end of their scheduled hours. McKenna’s law staff are encouraged to be comfortable letting clients and coworkers know when they won’t be available due to vacations or personal time off.

Each employee’s schedule may look vastly different. Every office must evaluate its needs and implement flexible scheduling that works best for operational purposes. Some offices have all staff report on specific days to the workplace, while others stagger schedules.   

Retaining best remote work practices

Robert McKenna urges businesses to implement cloud servers if they haven’t yet made the switch. Since McKenna’s law firm was already operating on cloud servers when the pandemic occurred, staff could still sign in anywhere in the world. Since the team was comfortable with cloud servers, the administration didn’t require extensive training to get up and going once remote.

Instead of going back to a traditional work model, McKenna plans to continue operating on a hybrid schedule. The law firm attracts top personnel and has solid retention rates due to its commitment to flexible scheduling. McKenna has used hybrid scheduling to make onboarding packages more attractive to prospective employees. According to McKenna, “If you got 20 hours back every week that you did not spend in traffic, you’re a happy person. This worked out very well for a lot of people that, because of the economic climate, live far away.”  

About Robert L. McKenna III

With decades of experience, Robert L. McKenna III has worked on countless court cases, specializing in malpractice lawsuits involving pharmacies, dental practices, hospitals, doctor’s offices, and more. A long-time California resident, McKenna attended both UCLA and Loyola Law School. He began practicing law in 1993 and has bar admissions in California and Nevada. As an award-winning attorney, McKenna has affiliations with numerous professional organizations, including the California Hospital Association, California Medical-Legal Committee, California Medical Malpractice Defense Professionals, California State Bar Association, Los Angeles County Bar Association, American Society for Healthcare Risk Management, Association of Southern California Defense Counsel, Nevada Hospital Association, and the Nevada State Bar Association.

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