With plenty of benefits to be had from both in-house and remote operations, many companies have been working to take advantage of a hybrid approach to business. While this approach has proven greatly beneficial to businesses in assorted ways, there are a few drawbacks that need to be addressed. One major one: a lack of inclusivity.

Let’s dig into how this happens, and why it matters.

While Hybrid Work Has Proved Helpful, It Has Also Created Rifts

Don’t get us wrong—there are plenty of ways that hybrid work can and has proven helpful to businesses. Not only can it allow more flexibility in productive work processes, but it should also be able to create more equity in the work environment removing the in-person element that many (unfortunately common) microaggressions rely on.

However, the situation is far from perfect, due to a nasty little phenomenon known as proximity bias. What is proximity bias, you ask? Simply put, it’s the tendency for an employer or manager to show preference or favoritism to those employees who are closer to them physically.

Let’s consider it in a hypothetical situation. Let’s say that a company, we’ll call it “Horror Services, Inc.,” adopted remote operations in order to protect its employees at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of late, some people have come back into the office to work, while some have continued to work remotely.

Now, when CEO Count von Dracula starts to consider whom to promote, give raises to, or otherwise professionally reward, who is he most likely to consider? Is he going to first think of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, or Jekyll/Hyde, who are all present in the office during the workday, or is his mind going to turn to the Invisible Man, doubly unseen as he works from his apartment? Since proximity bias exists, chances are that the Invisible Man will be passed over, even if his quality of work far outpaces the rest of his coworkers’.

There’s also the lack of trust in remote workers that many managers just can’t seem to shake. So, even though the Invisible Man’s results speak for themselves, old Dracula might still feel some doubts that he’s working as diligently as expected.

Now, even though our example has been filled with creepy-crawlies from classic horror, the realities of these rifts are much more sinister in reality.

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Certain Groups are Hit Harder by Hybrid Work’s Proximity Bias

When it comes to who is working in-house (and who therefore benefits from proximity bias) and who is working remotely, there are some very telling tendencies that need to be acknowledged.

Generally speaking, recent research has shown that those returning to the office are more likely to be executives or knowledge workers who are white, male, and non-parents, while those who work remotely tend to be more diverse in terms of: 

  • Sex
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Disability

On top of these factors, those who choose to work remotely often do so in order to simplify the balance between their work responsibilities and the demands of child care.

This all leads to a highly imbalanced workplace dynamic…but with the right level of awareness and technology in place, these kinds of issues can be more effectively avoided. This is particularly true of collaborative technologies, ones that your more remote team members can use to maintain a presence in the office without sacrificing the benefits that motivate them to work remotely.

Aspire is here to help you acquire and maintain the information technologies that enable productive work to be done, including those to help make your hybrid workplace more successful and equitable through open communication and collaboration. Give us a call at (469) 7-ASPIRE to learn more.

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