Have you ever heard that phrase, “Out of mind, out of sight?”

Other than being a great Buffy episode, it’s a common phrase that describes how a lot of employees feel in the hybrid world. 


And while hybrid work has many amazing benefits like flexibility we need to be mindful of a potential downside: inequitable visibility. 

In the hybrid world employees can be:

  • Fully remote
  • Hybrid 
  • Fully in-person 

And depending on what group you fall into you may be more visible and have more access to senior leadership than others… 

And that can lead to proximity bias. 

What is proximity bias?

Proximity bias is when employees who are in a position of power treat employees that are physically closer to them more favorably.

It can show up in the following ways:

  • Excluding remote employees from important meetings
  • Offering more interesting projects or assignments to onsite employees
  • Evaluating work of those onsite higher than remote employees regardless of the performance goals
  • More learning opportunities being offered to onsite employees
  • More work perks given to onsite employees 

Fun fact: The no.1 concern of 41% of executives is that flexible work will create potential inequities between employees that are remote vs in-person. 

So, um why are so many execs demanding we return to the office then??? Make it make sense!

Not to mention, there is existing inequality between gender and race but now add another layer of remote vs in-person. 

The most dangerous part of proximity bias?

Under-represented employee groups will be potentially impacted that hardest. 


Because they are the groups who are opting most into flexible work arrangements rather than opting into working from an office. We already know the office isn’t inclusive!


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By the numbers: In a survey conducted by Slack the following groups reported working hybrid or remotely:

  • 84% of Hispanic/Latinx respondents
  • 76% of Black respondents 
  • 75% of Asian/Asian-American respondents

Compared to 67% of White respondents!

If you have a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion you must consider the dynamic of the hybrid world! Next week I’ll dive deeper into this topic.

In the meantime, there are specific things managers and HR teams can do to support employees and ensure they feel visible regardless of their location. 

What can manager do to create equitable visibility: 

Managers determine things like career development, promotions, and access to projects/tasks therefore equitable visibility starts at the team level. 

3 tips for managers: 

1. Assign opportunities for growth across your team fairly. Yes, it can be easier to turn to the person physically next to you to assign a task. But, if you’re always assigning work to whoever is closest to you that is a problem. Be mindful of opportunities and how you assign them! 

2. Foster connection to fuel collaboration: Office watercooler talk can be re-created in the virtual world. Finding moments for your team to bond with each other and others outside the team can have a massive impact on engagement and morale. As a manager our job is to facilitate that connection! Look for ways to connect your hybrid or remote employees to others across the company. In the form of a buddy, mentor or friend! 

A pro-tip: I’m always on the lookout for shared interests. When I learn an employee has an interest in common with someone on my team, I try to have them meet. Slack is great for getting channels started around shared interests. I created our Pop Culture channel because I needed a space to discuss! 

3. Distribute your recognition: Last week I gave tips for how to give recognition/appreciation and this week I’m back to remind you to distribute the love! If you are constantly celebrating the same folks it’s time to examine that. A lot of work being done remotely can feel invisible. Make sure you are spending weekly time hearing from your team about their achievements! 

Some questions to incorporate in your 1:1:

  • What is something you are most proud of this week?
  • What is an achievement you want to celebrate this week? 
  • What challenges have you overcome this week? 

What HR can do to support managers: 

You don’t think I’d end a newsletter without tips for HR folks did ya?? NEVER!

Here are 2 things HR teams can do tomorrow to support managers in creating equitable visibility: 

1. Educate your managers on bias. There might not be awareness about the impact of proximity bias in the hybrid. Help your managers be aware and educate them on how it can show up in the workplace. 

2. Monitor all your promotions: If your promotions are consistently going to the same group of people, you have a problem. 

To solve this: Make sure every manager has clear goals for individuals on their team before considering allowing promotions. 

Even better: map your levels and how employees can uplevel and be promoted. This will be one more thing to help create consistency across promotions. 

3. Monitor who your employees are celebrating: If only employees that are in-person are being praised… that is setting a precedent. Employees will start to think the only way they will receive praise is to be in the office. You don’t want that!

This week was a bit of a teaser for what’s to come next week… I’m diving into the impact the hybrid world has on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Hebba Youssef
Hebba Youssef

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