Proximity Bias: What It Is & How To Prevent It In Hybrid Workplace

A hybrid workplace concept combines office work and remote work to provide employees with more flexibility and support. Employees who work in such workplaces frequently enjoy greater flexibility and a better work-life balance. However, the hybrid work environment has brought about many changes in recent years – both positive and negative – including the emergence of a new type of bias called proximity bias. In this article, we will explore this bias, how it can manifest in the workplace, and what steps organizations can take to prevent it in a hybrid work environment.

Proximity Bias

Proximity Bias: What It Is & Why Does It Occur In A Hybrid Workplace?

Proximity bias is a form of unconscious bias that generally occurs in hybrid workplaces. It refers to the tendency to favor or prioritize employees who are physically present in the office over those who work remotely. This type of bias can have a negative impact on remote workers, as they may feel excluded and undervalued. 

The proximity bias can manifest in a variety of ways among employees. Most notable instances can be giving in-office employees more opportunities for advancement or excluding remote workers from important meetings and decision-making processes.

It often occurs because managers and colleagues tend to have more face-to-face interactions with in-office employees and may find it easier to build relationships with them. But the opposite happens for employees who work from home. Additionally, in-office employees may be more visible and, therefore, more likely to be recognized for their contributions.

Impact Of Proximity Bias On Remote Workers

Proximity Bias

As mentioned, Proximity bias can have a negative impact on remote workers in a hybrid workplace. When managers and colleagues favor employees who are physically present in the office, remote workers get extremely negative feelings.

🌟 Remote workers may feel excluded from important conversations and decision-making processes. This exclusion can have a detrimental effect on remote workers’ job satisfaction, motivation, and performance

🌟 This type of negative bias can lead to feelings of isolation for remote workers. Lack of communication or proper information-sharing between remote workers and those working in the office undermines the trust, cooperation, and collaboration of remote workers with their teams.

🌟 Remote workers may not receive the same opportunities for growth and advancement as their in-office counterparts. This can ultimately lead to high turnover rates for remote workers and negatively impact the productivity and success of the organization as a whole.

How To Prevent Proximity Bias In A Hybrid Workplace

Proximity Bias

In a hybrid workplace, where some employees are in the office and others are working from home, it is important to be aware of and actively prevent proximity bias in order to create a fair and inclusive work environment. Here are some steps that can be taken to prevent such bias in a hybrid workplace:

1. Clearly Communicate Expectations And Guidelines

Setting clear guidelines and expectations for how remote workers should communicate and collaborate with their in-office colleagues, and vice versa, can help to prevent proximity bias in a hybrid workplace. This includes outlining the specific responsibilities and work-related goals of remote employees, as well as the protocols and processes that they should follow to ensure that they are able to collaborate effectively and communicate with their colleagues. 

By establishing transparent procedures, managers can help to ensure that all employees are held to the same standards. Also, remote employees are not disadvantaged simply because they are not physically present in the office. It is also important that the guidelines are communicated clearly to all employees and that any changes to them are communicated in a timely manner. Office employees should follow the correct communication procedures as well, making sure no one gets hampered or left out.

2. Encourage Virtual Participation And Engagement

Proximity Bias

Encouraging virtual participation and engagement is an important step in preventing proximity bias in a hybrid workplace. This means providing remote employees with the tools and technology to communicate effectively and collaborate with their colleagues. This also includes creating opportunities for them to actively participate in team meetings, brainstorming sessions, and other activities. 

Managers should also make an effort to involve remote employees in important decision-making processes and should actively seek out their input and ideas. Additionally, it is important that remote employees feel like they are part of the team and that their contributions are recognized and valued. This can be done by providing them with the same opportunities for training, professional development, and advancement as their in-office colleagues.

3. Empowering Remote Employees With Training And Resources

Providing training and resources to managers and employees on how to effectively manage and collaborate in a hybrid work environment can decrease the probability of proximity bias. Supplying remote employees with the tools, technology, and resources they need to effectively communicate and collaborate with their colleagues and training them on how to use these resources effectively. Managers should also provide training on how to work effectively in a remote environment and how to manage virtual teams. 

This includes training on virtual communication and collaboration tools, time management and productivity, and maintaining a work-life balance while working remotely. Providing training and resources can help remote employees feel more confident and supported in their roles and help managers to better understand and support the unique needs of remote employees.

4. Alternating Remote And On-site Work Schedules

By allowing employees to rotate between working remotely and in the office, managers can ensure that all employees have equal opportunities to be present and visible. It ensures every employee participates in important team meetings, company-wide events, and other activities. This can help to ensure that all employees are treated fairly and given equal opportunities for advancement and recognition.

Additionally, by rotating schedules, remote workers can also have the opportunity to build stronger relationships with their colleagues and to better integrate with the company culture. Alternating remote and on-site work schedules can also help managers to better understand and support the unique needs of remote employees and to create a more inclusive and collaborative work environment.

5. Routinely Assess And Address Issues

Proximity Bias

Routinely assessing and addressing issues is an essential step in preventing proximity bias in a hybrid workplace. This means regularly evaluating the work environment, communication and collaboration processes, and the performance of remote employees to identify and address any potential issues. Managers should actively survey feedback from remote employees and should be open to hearing and addressing any concerns they may have.

Additionally, managers should monitor and track the performance of remote employees to ensure that they are not at a disadvantage compared to their in-office colleagues. By regularly assessing and addressing issues, managers can proactively identify and address any bias and ensure that remote employees are treated fairly and given equal opportunities for success. 

Manage Proximity Bias In Your Hybrid Workplace

By taking steps to prevent proximity bias in a hybrid work environment, organizations can create a more inclusive and equitable workplace for all employees. This is essential for the success of the hybrid work model, as well as the long-term productivity of the organization. 

So, what do you think? Would you be able to manage it in your hybrid workplace? Share your thoughts in the comment section. If you think this article is helpful, subscribe to our blog for more job and workplace-related articles. Also, join us on our Facebook community to interact with more people.

Parsia Tabassum Oishi

Parsia Tabassum Oishi

Oishi is an Electrical & Electronics Engineering graduate. She started her career as a tech blogger due to her interest in exploring new technologies and writing up content by experiencing user journeys. Besides being a content writer, she loves spending her spare time reading adventurous storybooks and historical novels. Also, she loves traveling with her family.

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