The shift to hybrid work models, with teams split between in-office and remote employees, has led to new challenges. One emerging issue is proximity bias, where managers subconsciously favor employees they see regularly in the office. This biased behavior can negatively impact remote workers' professional development, career advancement, and sense of inclusion.
As a leader embracing hybrid work, you must proactively address proximity bias to create fair, equal opportunities for all. With intentional effort, you can optimize meetings, communication, and your work environment to eliminate preferential treatment.
The Importance of Avoiding Proximity Bias
Proximity bias refers to the human tendency to connect more easily with people we see regularly. With hybrid teams, managers tend to build closer bonds with employees they see in the office daily. Without realizing it, you may interact more frequently with office workers, include them in key projects, and advocate for their career growth. Meanwhile, remote employees can feel isolated and passed over for impactful work and promotion opportunities. Over time, high-performing remote workers may disengage or leave due to a lack of recognition and limited professional development.
Allowing proximity bias to continue unchecked can severely impact hybrid teams. It damages company culture by making remote workers feel like second-class citizens. Employees lose trust in leadership and in the fairness of performance appraisals and career advancement. Talent retention also becomes more difficult.
That's why taking intentional steps to overcome proximity bias is essential for any organization. Treating all employees equally regardless of physical presence builds a thriving, cohesive hybrid work environment.
4 Ways To Overcome and Prevent Proximity Bias in Hybrid Settings
Leading hybrid teams requires evolving conventional management approaches. Here are four best practices to overcome proximity bias:
1. Establish Clear and Objective Performance Metrics
The first step is developing performance measurement systems that minimize subjectivity. Define precise metrics for success across departments and roles. Track employee contributions through performance reviews on a regular basis, using hard data to benchmark goals.
By managing everyone's work consistently and objectively, you mitigate preferential treatment from creeping into critical processes like performance appraisals. This way, remote and office employees have an equal playing field to demonstrate strengths, unlock professional development resources, and earn promotions.
2. Ensure Equal Career Prospects and Growth
In hybrid settings, remote workers often struggle to access the same career development as office colleagues. You may inadvertently interact more frequently with and mentor on-site employees, excluding remote staff from key conversations. You can bridge this gap by being highly intentional about remote workers' growth. Proactively check-in, provide onboarding and training, assign stretch assignments, and advocate for their advancement. Treat all employees as integral members of one team.
Tools like Scoop enable effortless planning of mentorship meetings and working sessions to support remote staff one-on-one. With Scoop's office planning features, you can also set and share team in-office days to facilitate equal access to leadership and learning for all.
3. Provide Regular Feedback and Check-Ins
Out of sight shouldn't mean out of mind. Without regular in-person interaction, it's easy for remote workers to feel disconnected from company culture and decision-making.
Combat this with detailed, consistent feedback on performance and projects. Go beyond quick emails and have in-depth discussions by phone or video chat. Ask thoughtful questions and listen closely to your team members' struggles and suggestions. Scheduling recurring one-on-ones and meetings is essential. Tools like calendar integrations in Scoop make this easy by allowing you to instantly schedule check-ins and meaningful face time.
Frequent, high-quality communication centered on understanding employees' needs is vital for hybrid team success. It helps remote staff feel recognized and engaged while surfacing any issues promptly. Embracing overcommunication is thus the key to improving hybrid workplace communication.
4. Promote a Trustworthy Hybrid Work Culture
Ultimately, leadership sets the tone for organizational culture. Foster an environment focused on trust and accountability to minimize proximity bias.
Communicate the mindset that all employees, whether working remotely or from the office, are integral members of the team. Recognize the unique value each individual brings. Make sure remote workers have access to social connections and a sense of belonging. In addition, be sure to explain decisions transparently, particularly around projects and promotions. If employees could misperceive your actions as biased, proactively address those concerns.
With Scoop's planning tools, you can easily keep distributed teams aligned through shared calendars, automatic reminders about upcoming events, and more. This facilitates an inclusive culture where no one feels disadvantaged by not being physically present.
Leverage Hybrid Work Solutions for Inclusive Management
If left unmanaged, proximity bias can severely undermine hybrid team cohesion and trust in leadership. But with intention and the right tools, you can create equitable environments for all employees to advance and thrive. However, good intentions alone are not enough. You also need the right hybrid work tools to realize your vision.
Scoop provides seamless integrations with your existing calendar and communication platforms to schedule meaningful check-ins, set team office days, and share schedules. With Scoop's powerful planning tools, you can proactively facilitate equal on-site and remote staff participation.
Don't let proximity bias erode team unity. Empower inclusive environments where all employees can innovate, grow, and excel. Get started for free today.