Pandemic gave many organizations a second thought on the way they operate. Work From Home (WFH) became a necessity, not a luxury, and different sectors adapted to it. An interesting example is school education. Teachers learnt a new teaching style through online recorded videos and a new way of communicating through Whatsapp.
Pandemic also broke the assumption that older people are not tech-savvy. On the contrary, research shows older people adapted to remote work better than young employees.
74% of the companies now returning to office plan to adopt a hybrid model, and this flexibility is being hailed by employers and employees alike. But while remote work gave us more than flexibility, it also gave opportunities for biases to creep in.
Types of Bias Remote Team Deals With
Want to know how WFH leads to biases? Read the below seven types of bias remote workers deal with.
1. Proximity Bias
Proximity bias is an unconscious bias where managers/leaders tend to favour the employees in close physical proximity. As a result, the co-located team members get more insights, opportunities, and perks. It’s eventually making it hard for remote workers to create a place for themselves in the same office. Out of sight, out of mind is real.
Let’s see an example.
Imagine you are having a team meeting in a conference room. Four team members joined with you in person and three joined remotely. You asked a question, and two members raised their hands. One is sitting in front of you, and the other person is inside the laptop screen. You will likely give a chance to speak first to the person before you.
That’s a kind of bias remote team members often deal with.
2. Confirmation Bias
Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret information based on our preconceived notions. For example, remote team members have fewer interactions compared to in-office colleagues. This lack of communication leads to way more assumptions, thereby promoting bias.
3. Anchoring bias
Anchoring bias occurs when we focus heavily on the first piece of information received. It leads to the creation of false reference points or benchmarks. For example, WFH can change the way a few deliverables are planned or meetings are conducted. Holding on to old reference points from offices makes people less adaptable.
4. Attention Bias
Attention is a scarce resource. Attention bias is paying attention to certain things and ignoring others. At home, employees are often distracted and less vocal in meetings. It leads to a lack of visibility and affects overall productivity.
5. Halo bias
Halo effect is the type of bias where the person’s impression positively influences the way we perceive them. Example: You attend two sales calls. One connects on a video call, and the other isn’t. Chances are the team member joining a video in a professional attire can create a more favourable impression. As a result, you end up looking at the presentation or proposal with more attention than the other sales call.
7 Ways To Eliminate Bias in Remote Work
1. Lead by example
Quora is a remote-first company. To normalise WFH, CEO Adam D’Angelo announced both he and his leadership team would no longer work from office more than once a month. Management promoting WFH sets the right example for the team.
2. Switch to online meetings
With a hybrid approach, employees can work from different locations. Few may work from home, few from the office. So it’s good to have a virtual first approach for all meetings. It will avoid giving preference to team members who attend the meeting in person.
3. Adapt to instant messaging
Having internal communication platforms like Skype and Slack makes it easier for the team operating from different locations to work together. Slack also gives the option to create channels for group communication.
4. Have regular meetings with the virtual team
Managers should have a regular sync meeting with team members. Connecting with the team, getting to know them, and finding their problems is the best way to avoid bias at work.
5. Set up an internal communication mechanism
Yammer is an internal communication platform that acts as social media for company employees. It’s a common platform for broadcast communication. Employees can post photos, videos, and text similar to Facebook/Linkedin. With teams working remotely, this common portal brings a glimpse of the diversity and brings them on the same page.
6. Provide opportunities based on measurable results
It’s important to give opportunities based on measurable outcomes of one’s work.
Not based on who works from the office or stays back late at work.
Not based on first impressions.
Not based on who asked first.
7. Provide formal training
Bias is human nature and hard to overcome completely. Training, more awareness, and open discussion about biases at work are the only way to eliminate them. It’s a continuous effort and not a one-time investment.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Working from home has its own set of challenges, and biases can make it tough. But bias is a nature deeply ingrained in human DNA. To reduce bias, we need training, improvement of process, adapting to new technology, and above all awareness.
At All Things Talent, our experienced editorial team regularly brings valuable insights on HR Challenges, Talent Retention, Talent Management and more. In this post, we covered how remote work brings its own set of biases. Now we would love to hear from you. Have you dealt with any kind of bias in working from home? Let us know in the comments.