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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
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:
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 email@example.com
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