Hybrid work isn’t the problem – your guidelines are. This is why.

by Ana Lopez

Opinions of contributing entrepreneurs are their own.

As companies continue to navigate the new normal of remote and hybrid working, it is critical that they 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, one recent survey conducted by Mercer found that only a third of organizations have formal rules for managing flexible work. Mercer assessed 749 organizations and found that 48% rely on informal and ambiguous guidelines to manage flexible work, 17% are completely hands-off 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 recruiting efforts.

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

Related: Employers: Productivity Among Your Remote Workers Isn’t an Issue – Your Proximity Bias Is.

I talk to 5-10 leaders every week about how to create effectively guidelines for hybrid working. As a very experienced expert in this field, I can tell you that most of them do not have clear guidelines for their employees. But when I ask them what their biggest concern is, most say it’s about hiring and retaining talented employees.

Such anecdotes align with a recent research by Vistage, which found that a majority of small and medium business leaders are planning to expand their workforce, while only a small percentage are considering downsizing. According to Vistage Chief Research Officer Joe Galvin, this is a change from the trend of large companies facing layoffs as SMB CEOs are hesitant to let go of recently hired employees. The research also highlighted that hiring issues are a major problem for these companies as they hinder their ability to operate at optimal capacity. 61% of CEOs surveyed cited hiring issues as a major issue.

So that’s CEOs — what about the real experts: HR leaders — what do they believe about hiring and retention when it comes to hybrid work? Well, it shouldn’t surprise you that 95% of HR leaders say hybrid work is an effective recruiting tool, according to IWG’s HR Leaders & Hybrid Working report. 60% also say hybrid work promotes retention, and 80% agree it helps increase employee satisfaction.

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

Hybrid work guidelines: failures and successes

Well, with bad guidelines and expectations Not surprising harms employee engagement, which undermines retention. Consider some examples of what is happening in companies whose leaders I recently spoke with.

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

Similarly, a major financial services company struggled with a lack of clear guidelines for remote working. Without proper expectations for communication and collaboration, team members found it difficult to stay aligned and meet deadlines. This led to a drop in productivity and morale, leading top performers to seek employment elsewhere.

In addition, such guidelines are critical for retention. Take a look at one of my clients who let me speak about them, the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California. As a result of a consulting assignment, I helped them develop a robust set of hybrid work guidelines, which they on their website in the “Get Involved” section.. Their HR director found it helpful to recruit talented employees for the institute – and given the demanding market for data scientists, they certainly benefited from an edge.

What should the guidelines for hybrid work be about?

These examples illustrate the importance of having formal, written guidelines for hybrid work. These guidelines should outline expectations for coming to the office, for communication, collaboration and working hours, and provide a clear framework for dealing with issues that may arise.

Effective communication is an important part of hybrid work guidelines. When employees work remotely, it can be difficult to get a sense of what everyone is working on and how their contributions impact the team. Clear communication guidelines, such as regular check-ins and virtual team meetings, can ensure that everyone is on the same wavelength.

Effective collaboration is another important aspect of hybrid working guidelines. Collaboration tools such as video conferencing and project management software can facilitate collaboration, but employees need to be trained on how to use them effectively. In addition, guidelines should set expectations for how and when team members should be available to collaborate.

Finally, effective hybrid work guidelines should consider work hours and time management. Without a clear framework, employees may feel pressure to work longer hours or to be always available. This can lead to burnout and resentment, and can negatively impact both productivity and employee satisfaction.

Besides the negative impact on retention and recruitment, a lack of clear guidelines for hybrid work 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 cyberthreats. This can lead to costly data breaches and business loss.

Another challenge companies can face without clear guidelines for hybrid work 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 executives.

It is also important to note that guidelines for hybrid work should be flexible and adaptable. As the world continues to change and evolve, the way companies approach hybrid working must also change. Guidelines should be reviewed and updated regularly to reflect the latest best practices and changing employee needs.

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 guidelines are tailored to the specific needs of the organization and that employees are more likely to believe in them. In addition, it is important to provide employees with the necessary training and resources to be successful in a hybrid work environment. This could 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 guidelines for hybrid work. For example the sunk cost fallacy can lead 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 the office and underestimate the benefits of remote working. By being aware of these cognitive biases, leaders can make more informed decisions about how to manage hybrid work.

Related: How Has Remote Work Affected Our Relationships With Other Employees? The findings of this study will surprise you.

Conclusion

Clearly, hybrid working guidelines are essential for effective communication, collaboration, and time management. A lack of clear expectations and guidelines can lead to confusion, resentment and high turnover rates. It can also undermine effective recruitment efforts. By establishing formal, written guidelines – as the Information Sciences Institute did – companies can ensure their employees have the support and structure they need to succeed in a hybrid work environment. As a leader, it is important to recognize the importance of hybrid work guidelines and take steps to establish them within your organization.

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