Proximity Bias is Real. Returning to The Office Could Make it Worse | Protocol

Leadership & Culture

As firms refine and implement their return-to-office plans, much focus has been on providing workers with guidance on splitting their time between remote work and in-person work (e.g., two days offsite, three days onsite). This article highlights another consideration related to remote work and hybrid work: proximity bias. Proximity bias (PB) is an incorrect assumption that workers in close physical proximity to their team and company leaders will be perceived as better workers than their remote counterparts. This bias can cause disparities between onsite and remote workers. For example, the article references how research found that remote workers may receive lower performance evaluations and smaller raises compared to their in-office colleagues. And although the article mentions that PB can be eliminated by transitioning fully to remote work, a more practical strategy is 1) helping managers and leaders recognize their tendencies to engage in PB and 2) helping them to develop mindsets and behaviors that minimize PB when making talent decisions, and 3) use data, process, and calibration to root out PM from talent practices. Firms should incorporate these and other tactics into their return-to-office plans.

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