Karin, with our new work-from-home policy, and flexible work arrangements, I have a part of my staff that works from home most of the time. And other team members choose to enter the office (like me). How do I ensure that I do not give preference to the people I see most often? How do I prevent this thing called proximity bias #AskforaFriend.
1. Discuss proximity bias with your team.
You can start the proximity bias call that way.
“We want to create an inclusive work environment where we respect, value and support every team member, no matter where he chooses to work. What works now? What bothers?”
2. Be considerate and direct of you one on one
There is no better way to know what’s really on the heart and mind of your employees than a truly great one-on-one approach. Take time to create clarity and remove barriers, build a true connection and proactively ask them for their ideas.
Conduct your meetings on both sides of the hybrid table to avoid proximity bias
If you lead mostly meetings from a physical office with distant calling friends, try to lead your meeting from a remote location occasionally while others are still gathering in the conference room.
Providing a remote participation experience will also help you be aware of creating a shared experience (e.g .: avoiding side conversations or internal jokes that do not include everyone – this is one of the reasons why many hybrid team leaders switch to “one-on-one screen”, even for those in person .)
4. Be purposeful with your shared time
If it is possible to bring your team together in person, consider the most important work to be done during this time (e.g. strategic planning, raising ideas, sharing concerns, building trust, exposure to managers, navigating difficult performance calls). And if you need personal days, ask your staff what will make this time most worth the trip.
5. Measure it
If you are serious about overcoming proximity bias, you need to know when this is happening. Just like other unconscious biases, it is important to measure behavior.
One easy way to do this is to keep a list of each of your team members and keep track of your interactions. For example, you can track the time and duration of personal calls, informal calls, and other appointments. Then, look at either the patterns.
Read more here for deeper insights on overcoming kinship bias
How to overcome a bias in proximity to a better hybrid team