7 April, 2022
How to Evade Proximity Bias in a Hybrid Workplace
As businesses trend towards hybrid working models that feature a mix of in-person and remote work, business leaders and HR departments across the globe are dealing with the challenge of proximity bias. Defined as the tendency for people in authoritative positions to show favoritism or give preferential treatment to employees who are closest to them physically, proximity bias can disproportionately affect remote workers and further compound existing inequalities.
Although proximity bias has lurked in the background for years as one of the lesser-known evils damaging corporate environments, it has moved to the forefront now as a steady transition from remote to hybrid and in-office is taking place. Research has found that more than 4 out of 10 executives ranked the potential inequities between remote and in-office employees as their No. 1 concern. Further, bosses are twice as likely to prefer working in the office at least three days a week and want their employees to be there, too. Thus, to ensure a smooth switch to hybridity, it is important for employees to feel equally represented in the workplace, regardless of location. Read on to know how proximity bias can be overcome in an ever-changing world.
What Drives Proximity Bias?
Elimination of a problem requires an in-depth understanding and scrutiny of the root cause. A key driver of proximity bias is the apparent assumption that people are more productive in an office environment than at home. Time in office seats, for example, was viewed as proof of diligence and dedication, irrespective of the productivity level presented by the employee. This rationale stems from certain key points: a work-from-home setup is often prone to external disturbances along with internal issues such as IT queries, crashing applications, and system lags. Research has found that hybrid workers waste almost seven hours per week as they struggle with a lack of access and dysfunction of technology. Such experiences cause frustration and impact productivity. On the contrary, in an office, employees typically have better and faster network access with minimal to no disturbance. In addition, if in-office employees need advice or suggestions, peer-to-peer as well as managerial support is available hands-on.
The contingency? Such actualities and postulations birth a tendency to overvalue in-office colleagues over other, which acts as a cognitive shortcut that influences managerial decisions about promotions, appraisals, performance, and opportunities based on ease and familiarity rather than objective data-driven criteria. Such proximity bias cannot be justified, despite of evidence. Instead, employers should evaluate the usage and performance of their in-house technology and proactively spot, deal, and prevent performance issues to ensure all workers have the same digital experience.
Evade Proximity Bias by Going Digital!
HR thought leadership affirms that the best way to combat proximity bias is not to ignore the problem or mandate an in-office work style, but to build appropriate guidelines and operating models that address this challenge in a systemic way. As the trend of workplace flexibility persists, the adoption of robust technology to revamp HR frameworks so as to inculcate fairness will undoubtedly define the employee experience across your organization.
To accomplish this coup, consider leveraging an employee engagement platform that offers the following functionalities- DIY surveys and polls to gather feedback and identify key problem areas across the organization, digitized award nominations to ensure fairness and equal opportunity to candidates, org-wide announcements, automated and customizable R&R framework to introduce KRA, KPI, or appraisal-based social recognition, seamless integration with existing systems such as HRMS to facilitate a free and fair flow of information, and virtual events or contests that can be organized over the platform to safeguard the inclusion of a decentralized workforce.
Unleash the Power of Data Analytics
Data-driven reports and analytics is the most lucrative feature offered by an employee engagement software, so make sure your solution provider possesses the capability to generate and present custom insights related to recognition trends, team-wise or department-wise recognitions made, managers’ adherence to fairness while recognizing his team, performance feedback analysis, employee sentiment tracking, and so on.
A robust platform can provide evidence-based data points on team cohesion and efficiency, employee innovation and influence, and peer collaboration. This in turn, can help to de-risk and pinpoint unfair activity in the employee chain, eradicate silos, and identify key performers. Suffice to say, employee empowerment and freedom are here to stay, but prejudiced challenges such as proximity bias are definitely not!
The myriad of benefits offered by a digital employee engagement solution can be instrumental in strengthening communication across a dispersed workforce and ensuring that corporate dynamics are not disrupted by proximity bias. Connect with us to know how Gratifi can help in overcoming proximity bias and drive employee experience at your organization!