In a hybrid workplace, facetime with the boss can come with a big downside.
No, not the popular mobile phone application--the old-fashioned face-to-face conversations with the boss.
Compared with workers who come into an office, remote employees are often at a disadvantage, because of a phenomenon called proximity bias: preferential treatment shown to workers who are physically closer to their managers. Even in hybrid workplaces, where employees are given the choice to work remotely, this bias still exists, according to a recent study of 10,000 workers by Slack's research consortium, Future Forum.
Proximity bias can lead to inequality in the workplace, potentially putting already-marginalized workers at a disadvantage, the study says. Furthermore, Future Forum's research notes that, of all demographics, white male workers now spend the most time in the office, while people of color, women, and working mothers are all more likely to embrace a hybrid work model.
Giving some workers an edge over others isn't just an issue of ethics--it's also bad business. A 2020 study from consulting firm McKinsey shows businesses that prioritize diversity and inclusion are more profitable than those that don't, and they have better rates of employee retention. That's crucial, especially in the time of labor shortages and the Great Resignation.
The solution is a deeper investment in diversity, equity, and inclusion guidelines that establish an environment of inclusivity and set specific expectations for hybrid work arrangements, the study suggests. Awareness of the potential for bias can also help managers minimize it. Then you can figure out the best hybrid work model that works for your company and ensure that all employees get equal opportunities to connect with their managers and develop their careers.