Busting Bias In A Hybrid Workforce
Though hybrid work is becoming more and more commonplace post-Covid, there are still multiple myths associated with it. For example, many people believe that the only way to collaborate is in the physical workplace or that employee engagement levels and productivity suffer with remote and hybrid work.
It’s time to bust these myths and biases! According to 2021 research by Quantum Workplace, 82% of remote employees agree that they have the technology to stay connected to their manager and team when working remotely. When provided the right technology and equipment, remote employees can collaborate easily with their team members. During the past 18 months, hybrid employees have an 82% engagement level compared to 72% for on-site employees. 79% of employees say working remotely has had little effect on their everyday performance (www.quantumworkplace.com). 83% of employers say that the shift to remote work has been successful for their organization (PWC). In addition, employee productivity has actually increased during the pandemic (Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED).
Before we move forward, let’s understand some of the common biases associated with a hybrid workplace.
Biases in a hybrid workplace
Bias is a tendency to believe that some people and ideas are better than others, which has the potential to wreak havoc in the workplace. Some of the biases associated with a hybrid workplace are proximity/distance bias, similarity bias, anchoring bias, status quo bias, and confirmation bias.
Proximity/distance bias is formed on the “out of sight, out of mind” principle. It is a psychological phenomenon of falsely assuming people are more productive when they’re in the office. Managers tend to give remote employees lower performance scores, smaller pay raises, and fewer promotions compared to their in-office colleagues.
Similarity bias is the tendency for perceivers to assume that other people possess the same qualities and characteristics they have. It not only increases the chances of us missing out on diverse relationships, but also leads us into hiring, promoting, or offering more career development to colleagues who are similar.
Anchoring bias causes us to rely heavily on the first piece of information we are given about a topic. This can skew our judgment and prevent us from updating our plans or predictions as much as we should.
Status quo bias refers to the phenomenon of preferring that one’s environment and situation remain as they already are. It is most impactful in the realm of decision-making; when we make decisions, we tend to make the more familiar choice over the less familiar.
Confirmation bias is the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one’s existing beliefs. If someone does not like working in a remote environment, they are less likely to identify success in remote work—and more likely to visualize negatives they believe come from working remotely.
Now that we have a clear understanding of the biases associated with a hybrid workplace, how can we manage these biases and create a productive hybrid workplace?
How to manage bias in a hybrid workplace
The best way to manage these biases is by bringing awareness to the organization and its employees. We can continually increase the bias awareness of managers and colleagues by encouraging them to question themselves and intentionally focus on including other perspectives.
Meetings need to be designed with a virtual-first frame of mind. Be proactive in involving online meeting participants in discussions rather than permitting distance to hamper their contributions.
When new opportunities arise, selecting the best-qualified employees rather than picking someone who is in the office will create a level playing field for the entire team.
In addition to addressing bias, hybrid work also needs to be addressed from the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) perspective.
Addressing hybrid work from a DEI perspective
The hybrid workplace is the future of work and has major implications on DEI efforts of organizations. According to the latest research by McKinsey:
- Employees with disabilities are 11% more likely to prefer a hybrid work model than those without disabilities.
- LGBTQ+ employees are 13% more likely to prefer hybrid work than their heterosexual peers.
- Non-binary employees are 14% more likely to prefer hybrid work.
- Employees are resigning rather than going back to the office full-time:
- Younger employees are 59% more likely to leave than older ones.
- Black employees are 14% more likely to leave than their white peers.
- LGBTQ+ employees are 24% more likely to leave than heterosexuals.
- Women employees are 10% more likely to leave than men.
- Non-binary employees are 18% more likely to leave than men and women.
- Employees with disabilities are 14% more likely to leave than others.
Hybrid work may aggravate inequity, create less diverse office spaces, or cause unequal access to leadership. In-office workers may have better chances of connecting and advancing, while those working remotely may be out of sight and out of mind.
Employees belonging to a particular race, gender, or minority may choose to stay working remotely. This can lead to an impact on the diversity of the organization’s in-person employees and hamper the organization’s DEI goals and initiatives.
Employees working in the office may get more chances to communicate with leaders in person than remote employees. Clear communication can help manage the hybrid workplace in an effective way and help address biases and DEI issues.
Communication tips for managing a hybrid workplace
Some meetings are most fruitful when participants can collaborate in a live environment, for example introducing a new product in detail or conducting team-building activities. Some meetings may be just as effective remotely, such as those circulating quick chunks of information or meetings with fewer participants.
The use of asynchronous communication tools can help. Employees can video or voice record messages on their phones and attach the recording to their emails. They can also create screencasts using tools like QuickTime Player to better communicate their messages.
Here is a sample communication guideline.
Type of Communication
|During Working Hours||Outside Work Hours|
|Email (asynchronous)||Routine requests, information sharing||Hold or use delay send|
|Team communication tools (Slack, Teams, Twist) (asynchronous)||Project-related communication, socializing||Everyone set to Do Not Disturb|
|Phone, video calls (synchronous)||Relationship-building, sensitive or complex topics(scheduled in advance when possible)||Time-sensitive or urgent only|
|Text (synchronous)||Time-sensitive or urgent only||Time-sensitive or urgent only|
Employees can either be introverts or extroverts in nature. There needs to be a balance in providing them communication opportunities so that no one feels left out. If some of the employees work in the office and some work from home, make sure that the introvert employees are not overshadowed, especially during team meetings.
If you notice that the extrovert members of the team are grappling to feel connected, conduct regular face-to-face or video meetings with them so that they can talk more openly and directly. Motivate them to use breakout groups so that they have the time to discuss their ideas without controlling a team meeting.
Encourage varied communication styles so that every team member can communicate in their authentic way.
In your opinion, how can we ensure our hybrid work is as productive and engaging as possible? What are the benefits you see when working from home? From the office?
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