However, unfortunately, hybrid working is not a panacea; in fact, it is likely to cause more disruption to the workplace than the shift to remote working.
This is because of a little something called ‘proximity bias’ where being out of sight of managers (aka working from home, while your colleagues are in the office) also means you are out of mind and miss opportunities for career development or promotions.
This creates concerns for inclusivity at work, as it risks creating two classes of employees.
New research by LinkedIn has found that although 86% of UK and 75% of US C-Suite executives are planning to offer employees greater flexibility about where they work, more than a third are concerned about proximity bias.
In the US and the UK, LinkedIn’s study of a total of 500 leaders said their biggest concern about new workplace flexibility was those working from home may be left out of promotions or career decisions (35%) and ‘proximity bias’ might arise to favor those employees they regularly see (32%).
44% of more than 1,000 workers surveyed by LinkedIn agreed that ‘proximity bias’ was likely. In addition, 39% believe working from home may negatively impact their career as they have less face time with their boss and one in three think the office is better for career progression.
Preventing ‘proximity bias’ from becoming real
Unfortunately, a study by Forrester predicted that one in three employers who attempt hybrid working will struggle.
This creates real concerns about workplace inequality as a study by Slack found that white men are more likely to dominate the post-pandemic office.
So how should do companies get ahead now to avoid ‘proximity bias’ and not destroy progress on workplace diversity and equity?
LinkedIn senior director Becky Schnauffer commented: “As some employees return to the office and others opt to work flexibly, we find ourselves in another period of transition.
“It’s imperative that businesses ensure that all employees feel included, regardless of their location, and proximity bias doesn’t become an issue that impacts people’s careers.
“Leaders and managers will need to work closely with HR teams to facilitate the appropriate training and guidelines to ensure career progression is centered around performance, and not location.
“Managers will also need to work with their teams to build a culture centered around trust and communication to help distributed teams work effectively together.”
What is promising is that LinkedIn’s studies found that leaders are optimistic about their ability to ensure all employees are included, no matter where they work (72% for the US and 76% for the UK)
To achieve this, they are going to lead with empathy and trust, establish new behaviors and etiquette at work and ensure meetings include a social element that brings everyone together.