Preventing Proximity Bias in the Workplace - Live Assets

Preventing Proximity Bias in the Workplace

May 23, 2022 -


What is Bias?


Remote or hybrid work comes with many benefits and advantages. It’s flexible, has a little-to-no commute, can improve your work-life balance and much more. Unfortunately, these wonderful perks come with some disadvantages, like proximity bias.


What is proximity bias?


Proximity bias is an unintentional bias where preferential treatment is given to those physically closest to us. In the workplace, it’s thought in-person employees who are near managers and leaders are perceived as better performers and will eventually out succeed their remote colleagues.


How proximity bias affects employees


Team bonding

Team bonding and work relationships are important in creating a positive work culture and environment. Working from home doesn’t allow for the typical methods of team bonding like break room talks, lunch with co-workers, and just the small daily interactions you have with colleagues. Those who work remotely can be easily forgotten about, leading to work isolation. Remote workers might feel a deep disconnect from their colleagues. This disconnect can disrupt productivity and deplete the employee’s physical and mental wellness.


Depleted diversity 

Remaining ignorant of proximity bias can be detrimental to the diversity of your staff. Diversity brings many proven benefits to the workplace, such as faster problem solving, creativity, easier recruitment and much more. Getting to the office can be a difficult task for some. For example, people with disabilities might find being at home more comfortable and opt for remote positions. Additionally, women are more likely to take on a more prominent role in childcare and desire the flexibility of hybrid or remote work options. Showing favourable treatment to in-office employees will leave many of these people forgotten.


Professional development 

Professional development is typically a critical need, especially for those early on in their careers. It can help individuals gain the necessary skills for current and future jobs and help you gain confidence in your craft.


Working in a remote or hybrid environment can limit one’s professional development. In-office employees have the advantage of physical proximity to their senior leaders that remote employees don’t have. Out of sight. Out of mind. Struggling to be seen, remote workers can get passed up for being included in new projects or miss out on learning opportunities. Those excluded fall behind in their professional development, impacting the standard and quality of work produced.


3 ways to mitigate proximity bias


Implement a remote-first culture

Since proximity bias occurs when in-office employees are given preferred treatment fostering a remote-first culture can help level the playing field for employees. A remote-first culture promotes asynchronous working methods, such as incorporating collaboration technology.


Leaders can lead by example by adopting a hybrid work style and encouraging in-office employees to consider it as well.

Virtual meetings 

For daily huddles or your weekly meetings, all employees, whether remote or in-person, can join in from their computers. This allows those at home to be fully engaged as they can fully hear and see everyone’s faces.


Critical business decisions should also not be made in one single meeting. If a promising idea comes to fruition between colleagues in the office, a virtual meeting should be scheduled to ensure everyone is included.


Go straight to the source

If you’re wondering if proximity bias is an issue for your company, all you have to do is ask. Regardless of whether they work remotely or in-office, ask your employees their thoughts on the company’s current state. Some questions to ask:

  • Do you believe in-office workers benefit more compared to remote workers?
  • Have you ever been affected by proximity bias? What was that like?
  • Do you think you or a co-worker are being negatively affected by proximity bias?


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