The Proximity Bias Effect: WFH vs In-Office Employees

๐——๐—ถ๐—ฑ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚ ๐—ธ๐—ป๐—ผ๐˜„ ๐—ฎ๐—ฏ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐˜ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ฝ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐˜…๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ถ๐˜๐˜† ๐—ฏ๐—ถ๐—ฎ๐˜€ ๐—ฒ๐—ณ๐—ณ๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐˜?

In a nutshell, proximity bias means that employees with close proximity to their leaders are seen as better workers compared to remote employees.

As a result, theyโ€™re much more likely to receive promotions, raises, preferred projects, and other merits.

By definition, proximity bias is when we unconsciously favor whatever is closest in time, space, and ownership while also undervaluing those in remote locations.

Such favoritism of in-office employees can make remote workers feel disengaged and dispirited about their potential career development at the company.

In addition, without consensus as to how much time hybrid employees are expected to spend in the office, it can cause anxiety for those who would rather work from home.

However, there are things leaders can do to help avoid proximity bias, and just what are those ways you can overcome proximity bias?

1. Be aware of it, and make others aware by educating yourself and other managers about proximity bias, so it’s top of mind, and consider training to prevent it.

2. Focus on presence equity including setting up office spaces to account for remote workers being present in meeting rooms. High-tech audio and video screens can offset subpar webcams and sound.

3. Create a remote-first culture by promoting asynchronous ways of working by leveraging digital collaboration tools, the cloud or an intranet portal, and turning online forums and virtual chatrooms into the “town square” of the company rather than prioritizing face-to-face communication.

4. Leverage virtual meetings daily huddles or all-hands-on-deck meetings. Companies seeking to succeed in a hybrid model should retain the virtual aspects of these meetings, even when some are in office. That may mean having everyone join in from their computers. These meetings shouldnโ€™t be treated as a formality either, but as an opportunity to answer questions and ensure everyone is on the same page.

What are your thoughts? Chime in over here, leave a note!

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