Proximity bias in remote work


Whether you're managing a team of remote workers or have an individual employee that works remotely, it's important to create an environment of excellence in the workplace. While research indicates that employees who work remotely may be as much as 15% more productive than their in-office counterparts, they also can be subject to negative perceptions when it comes to promotion opportunities due to something called proximity bias. 

The good news is that by understanding and implementing strategies for addressing this bias head-on, managers can foster an “excellence from anywhere culture” where everyone is supported in their accomplishments regardless of physical location. 

What is Proximity Bias in the Hybrid Workplace?

Proximity bias in a hybrid workplace occurs when managers favor in-office workers over remote workers. This bias assumes that physical presence equals higher productivity, even though remote workers can be just as efficient.

How Do You Avoid Proximity Bias in the Hybrid Workplace?

Understand the Symptoms

Proximity bias can take many forms in the workplace. It can mean that in-person employees receive preferential treatment for promotions or decisions, while remote workers are excluded from important conversations. This bias can result in remote workers being perceived as unreliable or unproductive.

Giving preferential access to resources, information, or opportunities to those who are physically present can lead to decreased morale, productivity, and job satisfaction. Ignoring the unique challenges remote workers face can further exacerbate this issue.

Recognizing the symptoms of proximity bias is the first step in addressing it. By working to reduce this bias, companies can create a more equitable and inclusive hybrid workplace.

Put Effort into Inclusion

Make sure everyone feels included in conversations and activities, regardless of location. You can achieve this by implementing a rotating schedule for in-office attendance. Schedule important meetings at a time that works for both in-office and remote employees. 

And most importantly, encourage remote workers to speak up and actively participate in virtual meetings. Work towards making everyone feel equally valued and included.

Leverage Technology for Collaboration

Collaborating with remote workers is now easier than ever thanks to technology. Take advantage of the best equipment for video conferencing, file-sharing, action item tracking solutions, and more to bridge the geographical gap. 
Make sure to encourage remote workers to participate fully in brainstorming sessions and engage in online whiteboard exercises. By doing so, you'll make them feel included and engaged in the company's daily operations. 

Set Clear Expectations

When working remotely versus in-office, setting clear guidelines and procedures ensures structure and avoids misunderstandings. Establishing expectations for communication, such as how and when it should occur, fosters awareness and effective collaboration among team members. 

Promptly addressing any concerns or issues prevents potential biases from taking root. Don't underestimate the power of clear expectations in successful remote work.

Consider Culture-Building Activities

Improve company culture and foster positive relationships with colleagues to achieve shared business goals. Whether you work in an office or remotely, it's essential to encourage team-building exercises and social events that create a sense of inclusion and connection throughout the company. 

By investing in activities that enable employees to connect and build friendships with their colleagues, you can improve morale, boost productivity, and create a more positive work environment.

Focus on Communication Quality Over Quantity

It's essential to ensure that remote workers have a voice. Instead of emphasizing the number of communications, prioritize high-quality interactions to keep remote workers engaged. 

Encourage team members to document their ideas and thoughts. This can be in written or alternative formats and easily shared and stored for future reference. This approach ensures that every team member can contribute, regardless of time constraints or memory challenges. Plus, documentation serves as useful agreement and progress records for the team to stay on track. 

Proximity bias can negatively impact productivity and employee morale in a hybrid workplace. However, it is possible to address and eliminate it. It's important to remember that this is not just a perception issue - it has real consequences.

To help your team succeed, use Virtual Meetings.
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