Hybrid work: How 'proximity bias' can lead to favouritism - Deepstash
Managing Remotely

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Managing Remotely

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The hybrid work model

The hybrid work model

While many institutions have called for a full return to the office, others are moving in the opposite direction. These leaders have a responsibility to promote a remote-first mindset.

Yet, companies that are moving to a hybrid work model are wrestling with how to best deal with the proximity bias - the tendency to give preferential treatment to those who are physically present in the office.


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Effects of the proximity bias

The proximity bias is a mental shortcut that prioritises what feels the safest, even if it leads to faulty judgements.

  • A 2015 study found that remote workers at a Chinese travel agency worked better than in-office employees but lost out on performance-based promotions.
  • Leadership are more forgiving of poor performance of those in close proximity while not properly valuing the expertise of remote workers.
  • Leaders may be inclined to hand an in-person employee an assignment rather than someone working from home.


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New ways of interacting

Leaders should realise that proximity bias can be an issue. Then they should find ways to challenge how they connect with hybrid teams.

  • It might mean meetings should always be virtual, even if most are in the office.
  • Leaders should also have a system in place to connect with everyone in their team.
  • Workplace dynamics seem to be going through a huge shift, so people should be able to discuss what is working and what is not.


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