Successfully Implement Hybrid Working and Avoid Proximity Bias

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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

With many businesses adopting a hybrid working model post-pandemic, there are many things you need to consider to achieve equity between those working in the office, and those working at home, in your organisation.

A key concern is proximity bias; defined as the preferential treatment of in-office workers due to the fact they are physically present during the workday.

Now we aren’t saying that this is cause to reduce or remove home working! In fact, with these simple steps you can successfully implement your desired hybrid working model and ensure equity amongst your team members.

What causes proximity bias?

Proximity bias is an unconscious bias towards those physically close to us. The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” is a common expression for a reason!

In a hybrid working model, it favours in-office workers. They are more visible, easier to strike up a conversation with, and tend to form deeper bonds with their colleagues due to the more social nature of a physical workplace. Proximity bias can also benefit workers who work during peak business hours, those who have frequent contact with leadership, and those present at high-level meetings.

Unfortunately, proximity bias can lead to remote workers missing out on key information and opportunities. 60% of remote workers say they miss out on information shared in person, and 55% say they are excluded from meetings. This isolation can reduce their sense of belonging and lead to a drop in engagement. This in turn can reduce productivity.

How can you avoid in-office favouritism?

The key to avoiding proximity bias is to be aware of it in everything you do. You need to make sure you, and your team, have it at the front of your mind when making decisions both large and small.

You should also invest in the right technology for your business to make communication and workflow integration between your in-office and remote workers as seamless as possible. That way you’re reducing the chance of anyone getting left out of the loop!

In terms of meetings, there are two approaches you can take. You can either focus on creating hybrid arrangements where every team member has equal access (for example, by having people in the office join a meeting from their own devices) or split your meetings into ‘in-office only’ and ‘remote only.’

Both of these options give workers not physically located in the office, an opportunity to present without being overshadowed by in-person colleagues. It can also help to set meeting agendas that provide time for each member of your team to contribute.

Importantly, for any hybrid working arrangement to be successful in the long term, you should ask your team members for feedback on a regular basis. They are likely to have a different perspective based on their own circumstances and may have great, situation-specific solutions that can help contribute to an equitable workplace.

Recruiting for a hybrid workforce

Plus One are recruitment experts; we can find the talent you need to support your hybrid working and overall business goals. Get in touch here to learn more.