proximity bias

Proximity bias is preferential treatment shown to employees who are physically closer to their managers. This bias often exists in hybrid workplaces and between employees. HumanEdge is helping clients navigate this issue. Outlined below are five solutions for your leadership team to address proximity bias.


  • Proximity bias is often unintentional. Through education your team can be aware of the bias and address it when it comes up. Many resources and materials can be found for your leadership team, consider bringing in a third party that specializes in proximity bias to help in your education efforts.

Have a clear policy for executives to follow

  • Your executive team needs to align on how hybrid work will function at your organization. This was probably laid out in your “return-to-office” plan but re-analyze the plan through the lens of proximity bias. Once your team understands the role they play in perpetuating proximity bias, they can address it directly in an announcement or formal policy. For example you could limit the number of days per week that executives spend in the office or set a policy that “if one dials in, all dial in.Leaders staying home could be a compromise to solving proximity bias.

Be transparent. Give your employees a reason to trust you

  • With ‘The Great Resignation’ upon us it is important to be transparent about your post-pandemic remote working policies. Future Forum found many employees don’t trust their employer to adhere to these policies. These skeptical employees have a 20% lower employee satisfaction score and are two times more likely to look for a new position in the coming year. HumanEdge found that often when our executive clients say they are being transparent, not all employees agree. Future Forum found that 72% of executives believed they were transparent but only 47% of employees agreed.

Measure productivity accurately

  • As management you will need to think differently about productivity. The time in office indicator is superficial, instead measure productivity qualitatively. Resist the urge for your managers to track when work is being done and online time. Understand that measuring productivity with respect to output is most important.

Build a community among all employees

  • Proximity bias can also occur in your employees. Build a sense of community among employees. Set up a buddy system between co-located and remote employees for mentoring, create open chat spaces or virtual water coolers and delegate work so employees collaborate between those co-located and remote. One practice to adopt after hybrid meetings is to have employees return to their workstations and discuss next steps virtually or through a Slack thread, instead of lingering in the room when remote workers are not there.

By following these 5 solutions you will begin to address proximity bias in your organization while creating a more effective and satisfied hybrid workforce.