Top 9 ways to avoid Proximity Bias in the Era of Hybrid and Remote Work


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Many businesses have discovered that moving to a remote work model is beneficial. There is, however, agreement on the necessity of either keeping operations entirely remote or adopting a hybrid approach in specific sectors.

According to surveys, two-thirds of big organizations plan to use a predominantly hybrid schedule for non-front-line employees after the pandemic. While a hybrid structure may appear to be the ideal solution, businesses that opt for it are concerned about proximity bias.

This article will discuss the concept of Proximity Bias, why it exists, and what you can do to avoid its pitfalls to leverage the opportunities presented by today’s working world and fully unlock your potential as a leader!

What Is Proximity Bias?

What Is Proximity Bias

Proximity bias is a cognitive bias that dictates that we tend to favour those who are near us geographically. This bias can come into play in the hybrid and remote work culture when choosing whom to work with on any assigned project or task. For example, an employer may be more likely to choose a hybrid employee who lives near them for a job that can be done remotely, instead of someone who lives farther away but is better qualified for the position.

Proximity bias can also lead to overlooking qualified individuals who live in different parts of the world. To avoid falling victim to proximity bias, it’s essential to be aware of it and consciously consider all potential candidates for a job, regardless of their location.

Follow-up question: How to identify proximity bias at the workplace?

Read the next section to know the answer.

How to Identify Proximity Bias at the Workplace?
How to Identify Proximity Bias at the Workplace

Proximity bias can manifest itself in several ways, such as hiring friends and family members over more qualified candidates or awarding contracts to businesses that are closer to us. There are a few ways to identify proximity bias in the workplace:

❖ Consider whether you give extra consideration to coworkers who are not near you. For example, do you attempt to include them in lunch plans or socialize with them more often than others?

❖ Pay attention to the people whose opinions you value most highly. Do they all sit near you or have some other connection to you?

❖ Listen to any negative comments about people who aren’t close by. If you regularly say things like “I can’t stand that guy in Accounting” or “I don’t know why she was promoted, she’s terrible,” that’s a sign that proximity bias might be at play.

❖ Pay attention to who you naturally gravitate towards. Do you spend more time talking to people who sit near you or who are in your department? If so, that could be a sign of proximity bias.

❖ If you are always quick to judge someone based on their appearance or where they’re from, rather than getting to know them as an individual, that’s another sign of proximity bias.

Top 9 Strategies To Avoid Proximity Bias

1.Get to know your team members well

By getting familiar with your team members, you will better understand what motivates them. You will learn how they approach, work and collaborate. When it comes time for them to make critical contributions to your project, they’ll be much more comfortable sharing their ideas with you (and expressing themselves). The result? Better team dynamics, lower turnover rates and higher levels of employee engagement across your organization.

Don’t forget: As a remote company, you may have a diverse set of needs that can vary between teams; paying attention to individual personalities is essential. Some individuals prefer video chats, while others are happy with written communication or phone calls.

2. Use technology to your advantage

Technology can be a boon or bane when it comes to staying in touch with co-workers and colleagues. Use new tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams to keep your team on-point while they’re not all together. Video conferencing tools will allow you to have face-to-face meetings and conference calls without having everyone flying across the country. You will instantly feel more connected to your remote employees because you can see each other as you work.

Make sure your employees are reaching out by email, as some studies show that people who receive emails during an absence felt more connected than those who don’t get a note from their colleagues for three weeks.

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3.Set rules for communication

The essential thing a leader can do to combat distance is set rules and guidelines for communication. You will have one-on-one meetings, presentations, and frequent check-ins—but you should also establish clear communication standards for group meetings. To cut down on time and confusion, figure out what works best for you. For example, whether it’s once a month or once a week—and whether these meetings will be in person or by video call. (And if you meet face-to-face, try scheduling at least half of your meeting outside.) By establishing these systems from day one, you create a structure that supports long-term collaboration between colleagues spread across different locations.

4. Build trust

It’s human nature to view colleagues present in an office with more positive attributes than remote workers. Leaders must know these biases to work toward neutralizing them during performance evaluations. Here are a few tactics leaders can employ:
● Set up one-on-one meetings regularly with remote workers
● Use video conference calls, texting and voice messaging regularly
● Identify characteristics about your team members that you admire, even if it’s something as simple as listening skills
● Take virtual employees out for lunch once a month.
These small efforts will help build trust between remote and in-office workers and improve overall collaboration within teams.

5. Be open to new ideas

In our current work environments, we are becoming accustomed to being within arms reach of others, but in the remote and hybrid work environment, that isn’t always possible. For these new virtual teams to succeed, they must be open-minded and willing to collaborate with anyone. This includes working with people who have different backgrounds or interests than you and collaborating with groups located around the country or even the world.

Be proactive and develop a skill set that allows you to be an adaptable and able person that is also mentally flexible. Focus on your unique strengths as an individual and team player while learning what expertise you may need from others. Remember, being part of a successful company means looking at things from multiple perspectives.

6.Take time to get to know people in other departments

Since you don’t see your team every day in an office setting, it can be all too easy to forget about them or think of them as just another cog in a machine. That’s bad news for your business because it takes people working together for a successful team and an efficient organization, not just next to each other. If you want workers who will collaborate effectively, take time out of each week to meet with individuals from different departments and learn how to help with other aspects of your job and which areas they would like some support in. This one-on-one time is also great for figuring out who really needs some more training to perform his/her job efficiently.

7. Be mindful of your body language

Body language is crucial while interacting with others, regardless of where you are. For example, when face-to-face with someone, your posture is incredibly important. Research suggests that slumped shoulders and tucked heads show weakness and submission while an upright stance shows confidence and dominance. So if you are meeting face-to-face with a client or boss who reports directly to you, you must walk into a room with a firm stance and confident look. After all, it’s hard for anyone to respect someone they feel is weak; even if it isn’t intended (which eye contact will help combat), people will still perceive your body language as submissive.

If you are standing too close to someone, they may feel uncomfortable or threatened. Second, try to act interested in what the other person is saying. It will make them more comfortable and likely to open up to you. Finally, be aware of your own biases and preconceptions. If you can recognize that you might be biased against someone because of their race or gender, you can consciously try to overcome that bias.

8. Be aware of your own biases

It’s essential to be aware of your personal biases and how they may affect your judgment. If you are aware of the potential for proximity bias to affect your decision-making, you can take steps to counteract its effects consciously. Whether it’s job roles or wherein an office remote workers sit, keep things as focused as possible by coming up with rules or procedures that are clearly defined and communicated. This will help reduce human subjectivity in these areas, helping to overcome psychological barriers like distancing or exclusivity. In most cases, you won’t need a rule for everything—but it is helpful to set some baseline principles when people are coming together from different places with unique experiences around one common goal or task.

9. Practice empathy

First and foremost, it’s important to practice empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It’s all about seeing the world from a different perspective. When we can put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, it becomes harder to feel biased towards them.

It’s helpful to get to know people from different walks of life. Spend time with them, learn their stories, and try to understand their perspectives. The more we know about others, the less likely we are to be biased against them.

Final Thoughts

Proximity bias can significantly affect our decisions, especially in the era of hybrid and remote work. Proximity bias can happen when people only look for similar employees to fill a role, which can lead to missed opportunities and bad hires. By understanding how proximity bias works and avoiding it, we can take steps to mitigate its influence on our judgment.

Are you looking to create a work culture that is free from proximity bias? Try the best remote employee monitoring software and create a hybrid work from home policy for your hybrid teams to provide a better work culture.

This article outlines nine ways to avoid proximity bias in your professional life. Have you tried any of these methods? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!!

Varun Bhagat
Varun Bhagat is a technology geek and works as a Sr. IT Consultant with PixelCrayons, a web & software development company in India. He possesses in-depth knowledge of mobile app development & web development technologies and helps clients to choose the best platforms as per their needs.


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