Managing a remote workforce has become a new reality for many organizations. There has certainly been a learning curve for companies that previously didn’t have employees work remotely. However, our software recruiters in Toronto have had years of experience working with companies in the technology industry where remote work has been happening for years.
In our years of experience in working with companies in IT who’ve had hybrid work models in place, a common challenge in managing remote workers has presented itself – proximity bias. Below our software recruiters will discuss what proximity bias is and offer advice on how to avoid it.
What is Proximity Bias?
People inherently favour the things that are close to them. We are naturally biased based on our location or closeness in relation to other things. From a work perspective, proximity bias is the idea that managers and leaders tend to favour employees who are in the office more than those who work remotely.
For example, a manager offers new projects and responsibilities only to employees in the office. Or managers hold meetings with employees who are in the office and don’t include remote workers.
Here’s how Gleb Tsipursky from Harvard Business Review defines proximity bias:
“Proximity bias describes how people in positions of power tend to treat workers who are physically closer to them more favorably, and stems from the antiquated assumption that those who work remotely are less productive than those who work from the office.”
Recent research suggests this issue is a genuine concern that organizations need to address. According to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM):
- 67% of managers consider remote workers more easily replaceable than onsite workers
- 62% believe full-time remote work is detrimental to employees’ career objectives
- 72% say they would prefer all their subordinates to be working in the office
- 42% of managers said they sometimes forget about remote workers when assigning tasks
- 67% of supervisors say they spend more time supervising remote workers than onsite workers
How To Avoid Proximity Bias
Managing a remote workforce effectively requires avoiding proximity bias. Here are some tips to help you prevent proximity bias when managing remote teams:
- Equal Communication Channels: Ensure that all team members, whether they work remotely or in the office, have access to the same communication tools and channels. This includes video conferencing, messaging apps, and project management software.
- Regular Check-Ins: Schedule regular one-on-one meetings with remote team members to discuss their progress, challenges, and career development. Make these meetings a consistent part of your management routine.
- Rotating Meeting Times: When scheduling team meetings or collaborative sessions, consider time zone differences. Rotate meeting times so that no one group is consistently disadvantaged due to their location.
- Document Decisions and Discussions: Encourage the practice of documenting meeting minutes, decisions, and important discussions. Share these documents with the entire team to ensure transparency and equal access to information.
- Performance Metrics and Objectives: Focus on performance metrics and objectives to evaluate remote employees. Avoid relying solely on visibility or the perception of effort, as this can lead to bias. Set clear, measurable goals for everyone.
- Flexibility in Work Hours: Allow remote employees flexibility in their work hours, within reason. Focus on the quality and timeliness of their work rather than strict adherence to traditional office hours.
- Recognition and Feedback: Offer timely recognition and feedback to remote employees. Acknowledge their contributions publicly when appropriate and provide constructive feedback to help them grow.
- Inclusive Decision-Making: When making decisions that affect the team, involve remote employees in the process. Seek their input and opinions to ensure that decisions are well-rounded and consider all perspectives.
- Equal Access to Resources: Ensure that remote team members have equal access to resources, training, and opportunities for career development. Invest in their growth just as you would for in-office employees.
- Promote a Remote-Friendly Culture: Foster a culture that values remote work and appreciates the benefits it brings, such as diversity in perspectives. Encourage employees to share their experiences and insights about remote work.
- Team Building Activities: Organize virtual team-building activities and social events to strengthen the bonds between remote and in-office team members. This can help create a sense of camaraderie.
- Review and Adjust: Periodically review your management practices and policies to identify and address any bias that may have crept in. Be open to feedback from your team and adjust accordingly.
By following these tips, our recruiters believe you can create a more inclusive and equitable work environment for your remote workforce, promoting fair treatment and equal opportunities for all team members, regardless of their physical proximity.
More Insights From Our Software Recruiters
IQ PARTNERS is an Executive Search & Recruitment firm supporting clients across Canada and internationally. We help companies hire better, hire less & retain more. We have specialist teams of recruiters in Executive Search / Board & C-Suite, Technology, Media, Digital & Marketing, Accounting & Finance, Financial Services & Insurance, Startup, Data Science, Consumer, eCommerce & Retail, HR, Manufacturing, Supply Chain & Engineering, Construction & Engineering, Legal & Professional Services, Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences, and Sales. Click here to view current job openings and to register with us.