Roy Gilbert

How proximity bias holds employees (and workplaces) back

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Successful businesses depend on their ability to make the right decisions. That’s why interest in “cognitive bias”—the set of faulty perceptions which can often taint our judgments—is not only growing in clinical psychology: it’s a growing focus in the boardroom , too. There are many forms of cognitive biases, but one, in particular, is often overlooked. I’m calling it “proximity bias.” How proximity bias plays out in the workplace

Proximity bias is the incorrect assumption that people will produce better work if they are physically present in the office and managers can see (and hear them) doing their jobs. This has been a long-standing expectation of businesses of a different era. But today, with modern technology and communication styles, it’s no longer always true. And yet people still hold themselves to this expectation—or expect it from others—creating cultural conflicts and divides between the office and remote workers.

Remote working is increasingly sought-after by workers and more widely practiced by employers. That is understandable. Widening the geographical scope grows the available talent pool while allowing remote working improves employee retention and attraction. No wonder our research found that 52% of employees now work from home at least once a week.

But there’s a difference between preaching the remote work gospel and actually practicing. Many companies now talk a good game, yet when you look beneath the surface, they exhibit underlying proximity bias. Some common beliefs include the idea that working from home is an escape from or substandard to “real” work. Their […]

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