Proximity bias refers to the unconscious tendency to favour employees who are physically closer or present in the same location, especially in a hybrid working environment. This bias often leads to the perception that on-site workers are more valuable or hardworking compared to their remote counterparts.
Causes of Proximity Bias
- Belief in Greater Productivity of In-Office Workers: One reason for proximity bias is the belief that employees working on-site are more productive than remote workers.
- Increased Opportunities for In-Person Interaction: Office workers often have more chances to interact organically with leaders and colleagues, leading to a perception of higher engagement or commitment.
- Example of Proximity Bias: A common example is a manager favouring or promoting in-office employees over remote workers, often unconsciously, due to perceived higher productivity or readiness for responsibilities.
Combating Proximity Bias
- Enhancing Remote Worker Inclusion: Increasing access, communication, and development opportunities for remote employees can help mitigate proximity bias.
- Training and Awareness for Managers: Educating managers about proximity bias and providing training can enable them to proactively address and challenge this unconscious bias.
In summary, proximity bias is a significant issue in hybrid work environments, leading to preferential treatment of on-site employees over remote ones. Understanding and actively addressing this bias through inclusive practices and managerial training is essential for fair and equitable treatment of all employees.