Hybrid work isn’t the problem — your instructions are. Here’s why.

The views expressed by the contributing Entrepreneurs are their own.

As companies continue to navigate the new normal of remote and hybrid work, it’s important to establish clear expectations and guidelines for their employees. And unlike Disney and Twitter, it’s very important that they don’t randomly change their minds when leadership changes.

However, a recent survey conducted by Mercer found that only a third of organizations have formal rules for managing flexible working. Mercer assessed 749 organizations and found that 48% rely on informal and ambiguous guidelines for managing flexible work, 17% are completely spontaneous and only 34% rely on clear and transparent formal rules. This lack of clear communication and expectations can have a serious impact on both retention and recruitment efforts.

And how effectively do companies communicate about the policies they have? Fishbowl recently conducted a survey, with approximately 7,300 professionals surveyed about how well they understand their company’s plan for hybrid work. 50.8% understood their company’s hybrid work instructions, but 49.2% did not. Not a good result.

Related: Employers: Productivity Among Your Remote Workers Isn’t the Problem — It’s Your Proximity Bias.

I talk to 5-10 leaders every week about how to create effective hybrid work instructions. As an experienced expert in this field, I can tell you that most of them do not have clear instructions for their employees. However, when I ask them about their main concern, most say it’s recruiting and retaining talented staff.

Such anecdotes align with a recent study by Vistage, which revealed that the majority of small and medium-sized business leaders plan to expand their workforce, with only a small percentage considering downsizing. This marks a change from the trend of large companies facing layoffs, as SME CEOs are reluctant to let go of newly hired employees, according to Vistage’s head of research, Joe Galvin. The survey also highlighted that recruitment difficulties are a major problem for these businesses, hindering their ability to operate at optimal capacity. 61% of CEOs surveyed cited recruiting challenges as a major concern.

So this is what CEOs — what about the real experts: HR leaders — think about recruiting and retention as it relates to hybrid work? Well, you won’t be surprised that 95% of HR leaders say hybrid working offers an effective recruiting tool, according to IWG’s HR Leaders & Hybrid Working Report. 60% also say hybrid work boosts retention and 80% agree it helps increase employee satisfaction.

Related: This Dangerous Error in Judgment Could Cost You Your Business

Hybrid work guidelines: failures and successes

Well, having bad instructions and expectations unexpectedly it damages employee engagement, which undermines retention. Consider some examples of what’s happening at companies whose leaders I’ve spoken to recently.

At a mid-sized IT services company, employees were given the freedom to work from home but with little guidance on how to manage their time or communicate with colleagues. This led to confusion and resentment among team members, with some feeling overworked and others feeling underutilized. Ultimately, this lack of structure led to high turnover rates and difficulties in attracting top talent.

Similarly, a large financial services company struggled with a lack of clear guidelines for remote working. Without proper expectations for communication and collaboration, team members struggled to stay on the same page and meet deadlines. This led to a drop in productivity and morale, causing top performers to seek employment opportunities elsewhere.

Moreover, such guidelines are extremely important for conservation. Consider one of my clients who let me speak for them, the University of Southern California Institute for Information Sciences. As a result of a consulting engagement, I helped them develop a robust set of hybrid work guidelines, which they put on their website under the “Join Us” section. The HR director found them useful for recruiting talented staff to the institute – and given the demanding market for data scientists, they certainly benefited from the advancement.

What should hybrid work guidelines cover?

These examples demonstrate the importance of having formal, written hybrid work instructions. These guidelines should outline expectations for office arrival, communication, collaboration, and work hours, as well as provide a clear framework for how to handle issues that may arise.

Effective communication is a key element of hybrid work instructions. When employees work remotely, it can be difficult to understand what everyone is working on and how their contributions affect the team. Clear communication guidelines, such as regular check-ins and virtual team meetings, can help ensure everyone is on the same page.

Effective collaboration is another important aspect of hybrid working guidelines. Collaboration tools like video conferencing and project management software can help facilitate collaboration, but employees must be trained on how to use them effectively. Additionally, guidelines should set expectations for how and when team members should be available to work together.

Finally, effective hybrid work guidelines must take into account working hours and time management. Without a clear framework, employees may feel pressured to work longer hours or be available at all times. This can lead to burnout and dissatisfaction, and can negatively impact both productivity and employee satisfaction.

In addition to the negative impact on retention and recruitment, the lack of clear hybrid work guidelines can also lead to other problems for companies. For example, without clear data security and privacy guidelines, remote workers may inadvertently expose sensitive company information to cyber threats. This can lead to costly data breaches and lost business.

Another challenge that companies without clear hybrid work guidelines may face is managing employee engagement. When employees work remotely, it can be difficult to keep them connected to the company’s mission and goals. Hybrid work guidelines should include strategies to promote employee engagement, such as virtual team-building activities and regular communication from leadership.

It is also important to note that hybrid work instructions should be flexible and adaptable. As the world continues to change and evolve, so does the way companies approach hybrid work. The guidelines should be reviewed and updated regularly to reflect the latest best practices and the changing needs of workers.

One way to ensure that hybrid work guidelines are effective is to involve employees in the process of creating them. This can help ensure that the guidelines are tailored to the specific needs of the organization and that employees are more likely to buy into them. In addition, it is important to provide employees with the necessary training and resources to succeed in a hybrid work environment. This can include things like virtual communication and collaboration tools, as well as time management and data security training.

Cognitive biases can also play a role in how companies approach hybrid work guidelines. For example, the low-cost fallacy can cause leaders to cling to traditional office culture even when it is no longer effective. The availability heuristic can also lead companies to overestimate the benefits of working in an office and underestimate the benefits of telecommuting. By being aware of these cognitive biases, leaders can make more informed decisions about how to manage hybrid work.

Related: How has telecommuting affected our relationships with other employees? The findings of this study will surprise you.


It is clear that hybrid work instructions are essential for effective communication, collaboration and time management. A lack of clear expectations and guidelines can lead to confusion, dissatisfaction and high turnover rates. It can also undermine effective recruitment efforts. By establishing formal, written guidelines—as the Information Science Institute has done—companies can ensure that their employees have the support and structure they need to be successful in a hybrid work environment. As a leader, it is important to recognize the importance of hybrid work instructions and take steps to establish them in your organization.

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