Effects of the proximity bias - Deepstash

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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MORE IDEAS FROM Hybrid work: How 'proximity bias' can lead to favouritism

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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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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RELATED IDEA

The Purpose Of The Office Has Changed

The pandemic has been an extended experiment for most companies who are trying to manage people working from home.

Instead of making it mandatory to attend the office physically like before, many companies have adopted a hybrid model where one could go to the office once a week and work from home the rest of the days.

This new approach changes the purpose of coming to the office.

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The power of observation

Observing and chatting with colleagues helps us gain valuable knowledge. Employers recognize how important it is to enable workers to learn from each other, on an ongoing, informal basis.

Popular learning models have tended to suggest that 20% of our learning about a job comes from observing others, although newer research suggests that figure could be even higher. 

Of course, everyone needs formalized training when they join a team, on things like software or legal processes. But there are also the less obvious things to learn, like how do you fix that error message that pops up all the time? Who is the most helpful person in the IT team? Is it OK to wander over to the marketing team for a chat? Why do we work with this company but not that one?

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Set Clear Expectations

A lack of clarity can lead to issues in hybrid teams; if employees don’t know who is responsible for what or what’s expected of them, both individually and as a team, it can cause conflict.

So, if you want to better manage conflict on your team, make sure you’re setting crystal clear expectations from the get-go—particularly if your team is still adjusting to working in a hybrid environment.

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