The relationships of work models – face-to-face, hybrid and remote – with proximity bias 

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Many companies announced their return to the office every day of the week. Some decided to open their doors in just a few days. Others authorized their employees to always work from home. At the same time, 70% of Microsoft’s 30,000 employees from 31 different countries wanted to keep working from home when surveyed in 2021.

On the other hand, interestingly, 65% of these professionals said they wanted to spend more time in person with their teams. The results of studies and research on adopting work models in companies point to two the significant trends for the future of work: the search for flexibility and integration.

Whether the work is face-to-face, remote, or hybrid, the truth is that companies can no longer measure the team’s well-being only through periodic meetings. As a result, one of the main challenges for leaders is getting everyone to work in a balanced way and ensuring that interactions are not left out so that there is innovation without a reduction in the sense of belonging.

Face-to-face work model

The face-to-face work model is traditional and is already more than consolidated: in it, employees must travel to the established location, be it the company’s headquarters, office, store, or factory, among other possibilities, to perform their function.

Advantages of face-to-face work

For managers:

  • Direct contact with the team;
  • Quick resolution of doubts and problems;
  • Strengthening of the company’s culture;
  • Identify process bottlenecks
  • Develop soft skills.

For employees:

  • Exchange with colleagues and leaders;
  • The work environment can favor new ideas;
  • More agility in problem-solving;
  • Well-defined times for the start and end of the journey;
  • Awareness of being in a specific place to work.

Disadvantages of face-to-face work

For managers:

  • High fixed cost depending on the size of the office;
  • Problems are more difficult to identify;
  • Lack of contact with the team;
  • Too many interruptions to put out fires;
  • Time spent on commuting.

For employees:

  • Lack of flexibility;
  • Time spent on commuting;
  • Distractions and lack of focus;
  • Feeling of spending much time in the company;
  • Less time with the family.

Hybrid work model

The hybrid work model corresponds to a middle ground between face-to-face and remote. As the name implies, this format mixes the two to try to encompass the main benefits of each one and become an innovative alternative that addresses the market demands of the post-pandemic moment. There is no specific rule for its application; this should be left to the needs and strategy of each organization. The main point of this format is that employees carry part of the tasks in person and the other part remotely.

Advantages of hybrid work

For managers:

  • Flexibility for everyone on the team;
  • Less fixed costs;
  • Lean structure;
  • More empowerment for everyone;
  • Fostering business culture.

For employees:

  • Quality of life;
  • Flexibility;
  • Office structure to work without interruptions;
  • Exchange with co-workers;
  • More productivity.

Disadvantages of hybrid work

For managers:

  • Difficulty in promoting the company’s culture;
  • Communication difficult;
  • More investments in digital security;
  • Manage productivity and not hours;
  • Invest in tools that work well both remotely and face-to-face.

For employees:

  • For remote teams, there is a sense of isolation;
  • Lack of routine can harm deliveries;
  • Need for displacement;
  • Constant training to use new tools;
  • Difficulty disconnecting from work.

Remote work model

Remote work has gained prominence in the last two years and consists of a model in which the employee performs activities outside the company’s physical premises. When this occurs at this professional’s home, the process is known as a home office, but in practice, remote work can happen from anywhere where people can carry out tasks.

Advantages of remote work

For managers:

  • Decrease in fixed costs;
  • Time-saving with displacements;
  • You can follow the team from anywhere;
  • Less absenteeism;
  • More quality of life.

For employees:

  • More productivity;
  • You can work from anywhere;
  • Don’t spend time commuting;
  • More quality of life;
  • More a good time.

Disadvantages of remote work

For managers:

  • Difficulty evaluating the deliveries, engagement, and performance of your team;
  • Difficulty in stimulating innovation;
  • The risk of leaking sensitive information may be greater;
  • Lack of interpersonal ties with the team;
  • Investments to adapt the team’s home office.

For employees:

  • The company does not always offer ergonomic features, such as an adequate chair and table;
  • Internet instability, which is usually much more common in home connections;
  • Lack of socialization with colleagues and leaders;
  • There may be difficulty disconnecting from work;
  • Anxiety and stress.

The unconscious biases

Everyday work is full of cognitive biases, some conscious and others unconscious. Unconscious biases are thought patterns that we have subconsciously, and that can affect the clarity of our judgment. They appear at the intersection of available facts with our personal beliefs and values.

Unconscious biases stem from our evolution as a human species. Our brain constantly creates decision patterns based on common everyday situations to deal with more complex problems, and thus we save the time of having to decode problems in common situations at work or in personal life.

Because of them, people are here today! The problem is that these patterns are often loaded with silently dangerous prejudices, which negatively interfere with who the other person is.

The good news is that, with a little training, we can break this pattern to make decisions more coherent with reality. The first step is to know the main unconscious biases, in what context they appear, and what we can do to avoid their impacts on our work relationships.

The impact of unconscious biases at work

Within a company, unconscious biases can impact many contexts, from recruiting one person to not another to decide who will occupy the new leadership position on the team.

One process that is highly sensitive to unconscious biases is performance appraisal. According to a survey, 9 out of 10 HR leaders believe that people’s evaluation processes do not produce accurate data, and one of the causes of this problem is unconscious biases.

With inaccurate data, decision-making and even feedback for the development of each person may not match reality, and, as a consequence, the process of evaluating people may lose credibility.

What are the most common types of unconscious biases, and how to avoid them?

  1. Halo Effect

This bias arises when the person’s overall solid impression of someone – both positive and negative – clouds its judgment, even in the face of new evidence. This process happens, for example, when a leader thinks, “John is an excellent professional here at the company, he has always done his best, and we have a good relationship. I will only give him high marks”.

To avoid this bias, it’s important to remember that everyone has strengths and areas to develop. So it’s a good idea for the person “force” himself, in a good way, to think about the aspects that the person does well and the aspects they can improve.

  1. Recency Bias

This bias arises when people give more importance to evidence that happened in the recent past than evidence that occurred long ago. So, for example, a leader thinks “Lucas has been late – without justification – to the last team meetings. I will give a low grade on the Time Management competency”.

To avoid this bias, managers must remember that performance reviews should reflect performance over the assessed period, not just the last few months or weeks. Tools that continuously store feedback exchanged throughout the evaluation can help avoid this bias.

  1. Central Tendency

People usually avoid rating persons at the extremes of the scale, generally giving ratings around the mean. This process happens because an assessment at the median is comfortable and often does not require great justification. The problem, in this case, is that, at the end of the evaluation process, the data will have little variability to differentiate people with low, medium, or high performance.

To avoid this bias, companies must design people development and decision-making cycles separately. Thus, the organization ensures greater clarity and extracts maximum value from each process. In addition, it’s essential to have transparency in the labels and descriptions of each note. This clarity reduces the reflections’ subjectivity and increases the message’s accuracy.

  1. Affinity Bias

This bias arises when the level of proximity to a person or a group influences positively or negatively – in the case of people with whom we have a low affinity, our judgment, even when evidence points to the contrary. This happens, for example, when a leader unconsciously thinks “I built a strong friendship with Carlinhos. I know he has a family, and I don’t want to harm him here at the company. Therefore, I will give full marks to almost everything.”

To avoid this bias, prevent affinity relationships from interfering with the assessments you will make. The same can happen to you. Remember that the evaluation process focuses on improving (not punishing) performance. Going further, it is worth mentioning that, especially in a remote or hybrid work context, we need to be even more careful not to (unconsciously) privilege a person just because we have more contact on a day-to-day basis.

  1. Stereotypical Bias

In this bias, the evaluator may be unconsciously influenced by demographic or personal factors in their evaluations, such as age, sexual orientation, and economic class.

This happens, for example, when a leader unconsciously thinks “Leandro is young. However, he is only 23 years old and still doesn’t have the necessary skills to lead a team of 5 people. Therefore, I will rate the Leadership competency lower.”

To avoid this bias, be aware that stereotype biases may be invisibly present in your assessment, and to work around this bias, continually assess the other person based on what is expected versus what they demonstrate.

How companies should act

Managers should always seek to make decisions based on facts, data, and evidence that justify their perceptions, including fostering this culture in their teams. This process is essential so that all decisive processes for the company’s performance are assertive and efficient.

If a manager thinks that a person, for example, is having problems managing the routine, describe in detail the last times they delayed delivery and the impact of this on the company. The manager must evaluate according to the actual performance observed, with facts and data being the number one rule of thumb to combat unconscious biases.

In addition, another exercise that can help in the challenge of bringing any blind spots to awareness is to try to look for possible counterexamples to the thoughts we have about a person. This pratice can help confirm or refute one’s perception of someone.