Remote working: How to combat location bias

There has been an explosion in the number of businesses offering flexible working arrangements for employees – with remote and hybrid working now commonplace – and some companies even ditching a physical office altogether.

But new ways of working can lead to new challenges, and a lack of face-to-face physical contact could be fueling a trend for something called location bias.

So, what is it? And what steps can companies take to help tackle the problem?


Remote working statistics

 ONS figures reveal that 44% of workers are now either home or hybrid working, and for employees this flexibility holds real value, with work-life balance cited as one of the biggest positives.

Indeed, here at Dragon IS, we have supported a diverse range of businesses to facilitate remote working, with secure and reliable IT systems that are designed around the individual needs of the business and its workforce.

Hybrid working remains the most popular option for staff and jobseekers, while 77% of employees say they would actively look for a new job, or would consider one, if their company’s flexible work policies were to be reversed


What is location bias?

 Location bias – or proximity bias as it’s also known – can be defined as: ‘the tendency for people in positions of authority to show favoritism or give preferential treatment to employees who are closest to them physically’.

 And it can be a real problem.

 When the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) surveyed managers, two-thirds (67%) of supervisors overseeing remote workers admitted to believing remote workers are more replaceable than onsite workers. While 42% said they sometimes forget about remote workers when assigning tasks.

It’s also been shown that remote workers are likely to get promoted less often than their peers, despite being 15% more productive on average.


Why does it happen?

There are some key elements of traditional office life that can contribute to the issue of location bias, including:

Less face-to-face communication

Being physically present and around colleagues and managers allows for spontaneous conversations to take place. It also has the added benefit of non-verbal cues, which are far harder to read via video call. It’s thought this helps in fostering strong relationships and with better understanding amongst team members who are physical together.

More difficult to collaborate

Being physically close to colleagues and managers can also make collaboration and teamwork easier. In an office environment, you can quickly (and spontaneously) gather around a whiteboard to have an impromptu brainstorming session or engage in a casual conversation that might spur innovation, creativity or problem-solving.

Some managers can find it harder to monitor

Some managers feel that having employees physically present in the office allows for better oversight and accountability. They can find it more difficult to manage remote workers, monitor progress and feedback on their work, compared to those who are in close proximity to them.

Missing out on mentoring and professional development

Being in the office allows employees to observe and learn from more experienced colleagues and managers. Informal mentoring opportunities and learning simply by being around others, is something that’s far harder to do when you’re not physically together.

The social aspect of the workplace

Being in the office also helps employees to experience and become fully engaged with the company’s culture. It is also a far more social environment, with casual conversations, team bonding activities and shared experiences being more likely when employees are physically together.


9 steps companies can take to tackle proximity bias

Tackling proximity bias in remote working situations is important to ensure fair treatment for all employees, regardless of their physical location. The good news is, there are many steps companies can take to do just that – creating an inclusive and effective workplace that fully embraces remote workers.

Strategies for combating location bias:

  1. Awareness and education – Firstly, companies need to raise awareness of the issue. This could include holding workshops to talk about proximity bias, its impact and how it might unintentionally impact on decision-making. Education of this sort can help employees recognise and mitigate behaviour.


  1. Encourage virtual collaboration – To help foster a culture of inclusivity and collaboration, encourage virtual team meetings, brainstorming sessions, and group projects. This ensures that remote employees have equal opportunities to contribute and participate in discussions, rather than being overlooked due to physical distance.


  1. Rotate meeting locations – Avoid scheduling meetings that consistently favor employees in specific physical locations. Think how to include remote employees within all company wide meetings and ensure you have the right tech in place to support this.


  1. Establish clear communication channels – Make sure employees have access to multiple communication channels, including video conferencing, instant messaging platforms, and project management tools. Encourage the use of these channels to promote equal access and participation for all team members, regardless of their physical location.


  1. Focus on objective performance evaluation – Performance metrics and evaluations should always be transparent and objective, based on individual contributions and outcomes, to ensure fairness and consistency.


  1. Foster a remote-friendly culture – Cultivate a company culture that values and supports remote work. Encourage team-building activities, virtual social events, and opportunities for remote employees to connect with their colleagues, fostering a sense of inclusion and belonging.


  1. Adapt professional development opportunities – Offer remote workers access to professional development opportunities, such as training programmes, mentoring, and career advancement initiatives. This helps ensure that remote workers have equal access to growth and progression within the company.


  1. Seek feedback – Speak to remote workers for their feedback and ideas, to help you gather a clear picture of their personal experiences and challenges. Consider introducing a regular staff survey or check-in.


  1. Lead by example – Set a tone of inclusivity from the top, through your leaders and managers. Model inclusive behaviors and focus on a positive company culture that embraces diversity and works hard to ensure proximity bias is not an issue.


Expert IT support for your business

Here at Dragon IS, we have helped many businesses across a range of different industries to facilitate remote working in a way that is both secure and reliable. Our team is passionate about technology and about supporting our customers with robust and scalable solutions, alongside jargon-free support.

To find out more, contact us on 0330 363 0055 or email


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