We’re now over a month into 2022, and it’s clear that proximity bias – defined by Janine Chamberlain, LinkedIn’s UK head as “…a trend where employees in the office are valued above those who work remotely” – is going to be a big topic of conversation this year.
With hybrid work becoming the preferred model for many, questions are emerging around whether employees who spend more time in physical proximity with bosses in the office, will have an edge on remote and hybrid workers when it comes to promotions and recognition. But proximity bias extends beyond just facetime with superiors. Currently less talked about, but equally important, is how proximity to the office can impact an employee’s digital experience and their effectiveness at work. Let’s take a closer look.
In an office, employees typically have access to a faster IT connection than at home. That means they generally experience fewer IT issues like applications crashing or loading slowly. In addition, if employees in the office need tech help, peer-to-peer support is more easily available. They can simply ask a colleague nearby if they are experiencing the same problem, or if they know how to fix it. Equally, the IT team is usually in the same building so can be quickly accessed.
At home, getting that help is not as straightforward. And we know technology problems can be a big challenge for hybrid workers. Our research found hybrid workers waste almost seven hours per week as they struggle with a lack of access to technology and with technology that doesn’t work. In the short term, a poor digital experience causes frustration and impacts productivity. In the long term, the likelihood is that employees will leave.
So, what can employers do to ensure that proximity to the office is not the main deciding factor in hybrid employees’ digital experience?
Employers need to evaluate the usage and performance of technology to make sure that those working away from the office aren’t being impacted disproportionately. This starts with data. Having deep insight through workplace and systems analytics into the experience of all employees gives IT teams the ability to ensure staff can do their job well by quantifying end-user experiences.
For instance, IT teams need to know if an application being delivered via a remote connection is more prone to crashing, or if hybrid workers are having issues connecting to VPNs, shared drives, or internal servers. Workplace analytics enable organizations to proactively monitor application stability, evaluate user journeys, and identify inefficiencies and points of digital friction. Once identified, IT teams can fix and eliminate such issues and ensure optimal workforce-system interactions to deliver a seamless digital experience.
Similarly, by monitoring usage and adoption, organizations can address the absence of peer-to-peer support at home by ensuring that all employees feel confident using the technology and tools available to them. Workplace analytics help IT teams to identify training needs, by looking at factors like employees avoiding using corporate-standard applications, or where they are spending considerable amounts of time on self-help resources.
Proactively spotting and dealing with usage and performance issues is the best way for employers to ensure all workers have the same digital experience – allowing them to thrive equally, no matter where they are located.
One of the discussions around proximity bias is whether or not relationships can develop more fully when people communicate in person rather than in a distributed model. This is an emerging question and one that will continue to be discussed. Currently, “measuring” interactions between people is intangible. But this is changing. As hybrid is here to stay, we believe that in the future, workplace analytics will encompass relational analytics to help organizations understand how hybrid work impacts team and individual dynamics and where connections can be improved.
Relational analytics will provide evidence-based data points on team cohesion and efficiency, employee innovation and influence, and collaboration across the workforce. Relational analytics will enable organizations to reduce silos, identify key performers, de-risk single points of failure in the employee chain, and build a healthier, happier, more productive business. The overall outcome of relational analytics will be strengthening communications across a distributed workforces and ensuring team dynamics are not negatively affected by proximity.
Find out more about how Acumen can help drive your digital experience.