Create a more diverse and modern workplace by eliminating proximity bias

Back Create a more diverse and modern workplace by eliminating proximity bias

Proximity bias occurs when leaders inadvertently look more favourably on in-office employees over remote ones, simply because they can physically see them working. It’s an unconscious bias that can lead to misjudgement and tends to impact women more than men.

Recent research from Deloitte found that nearly half of full-time working women are primarily responsible for domestic tasks such as cleaning or caring for dependents. The findings also show that nearly 40% think they have been excluded from meetings, decisions, and informal interactions in the workplace. With women working from home more often than men, managers are less likely to see their work in action, which can lead to fewer promotions and more infrequent pay rises that may then go to their male counterparts.

There are several ways to counteract proximity bias, such as training managers to identify the common signs around the issue, and investing in the right technology that supports remote employees and allows them to communicate effectively and demonstrate their value. By doing so, organisations can build a more diverse and modern working environment.

Tackling proximity bias

To eradicate proximity bias, it’s crucial for businesses to foster a culture of trust and transparency, so people have the flexibility to work where it suits them, but still have their hard work recognised. All employees have a role to play in supporting this culture and taking personal responsibility for mitigating the impacts of proximity bias.

In the world of modern work, where a hybrid approach is common across industries, businesses need to devise a technology strategy that supports all employees to be productive and efficient in their roles. For example, it can be more difficult to see or hear colleagues when some are working in the office while others are at home. At Zoom, we introduced Smart Gallery to help bridge this gap, using the latest hardware and AI technology to build individual video feeds for in-room participants. This allows remote participants to see a clearer, more visible view of all colleagues when not all team members are in the same room. Organisations should also provide technology that enables asynchronous work, enabling people to replay meetings after they happen, and input at that point. Asynchronous work allows employers to be more inclusive of people with priorities outside of work, such as families or caring responsibilities, while still giving them the opportunity to contribute and voice their opinions. Going forward, technology will increasingly incorporate functions to allow teams to work together effectively, regardless of how separated they are by distance or time.

Managers should also be provided with the training needed to spot the signs of proximity bias and be empowered to stop it before it becomes an issue. Part of the managerial role also involves frequent one-to-one check-ins with people at all levels to ensure employees feel cared for. This will let employees know they are seen and valued within the organisation.

Finally, HR leaders should be looking to recruit a diverse pool of candidates from day one, regardless of their location. By opening up job roles that aren’t tied to a specific location and enabling employees with technology, diversity and equity become central to the hiring process and a diverse workforce will be fostered.

A diverse and modern workplace

Businesses need to invest in technology that encompasses all aspects of communication - whether that be chat, video or phone, to empower the modern workforce. Leveraging tools such as Zoom’s AI-powered all-in-one platform helps keep teams informed, engaged, and connected no matter where they work. In turn, businesses will be able to build a diverse and equitable workforce that encompasses the best talent, where all employees are treated fairly and given the same opportunities.