How to Avoid Bias in Managing Hybrid Teams
Most managers understand they should treat all employees equally, and believe they’re giving the same treatment to all employees of hybrid teams, whether they’re remote or working out of the same office. But managers are likely to unintentionally let bias inform their interactions with remote employees.
The numbers seem to back up this theory: 64% of managers say onsite employees are higher performers and 75% say onsite employees are more likely to be promoted. It’s easy to see how these beliefs could create a self-fulfilling prophecy, where managers think remote employees aren’t as worthy of promotions, so they don’t put them forward or give them the same opportunities they give to people working onsite. So how do you avoid this behavior when managing your hybrid team? Here are a few tips from Hassan Osman, a Udemy instructor and project manager with over 15 years of experience in managing virtual teams.
Avoid a two-tier system
Hassan’s first tip is to avoid having a two-tier system where onsite employees receive extra attention and remote employees feel excluded. If you grab lunch or coffee with team members when you’re in the office, for example, look for ways to schedule time to casually catch up with remote workers. Recognize the impact of “proximity bias” — preferential treatment for those who work together in person — and take steps to overcome it, especially when it comes to considering employees for stretch assignments and promotions.
Create a remote-first culture
One of the most important steps you can take to promote equitable treatment is to create a remote-first culture. Make sure all meetings and tools are accessible regardless of an employee’s location and their tasks can be accomplished from anywhere. Hassan says centralizing communication and leveraging technology isn’t just helpful for managing hybrid teams, but it also minimizes risk and ensures business continuity.
Doing hybrid work right
Learn more best practices for helping your hybrid team succeed in the ebook, How to Protect the Well-Being of Your Hybrid Workforce.
Track and over-communicate
“Remote employees tend to be very siloed,” says Hassan. “When everyone is working on their own thing, it leads to isolation.” You can overcome this by checking in frequently to make sure everyone feels supported. You may want to explore different modes of communication such as project management tools, instant messaging, and video calls so your team members have several ways to keep in touch. Gartner research found that only 33% of organizations practice true information transparency, so you may want to work with your leadership team to consider how to better share company information and updates with remote workers.
Run hybrid meetings effectively
Making hybrid meetings more effective involves starting with the remote-first philosophy. Conduct all meetings online and ask each attendee to sign in from their own computer — even if they’re calling in from the office — to create an equitable experience for everyone. Ask all participants to turn on their cameras and make use of features like chat and polls to keep it interactive. Find even more tips on making hybrid meetings inclusive here.
Make yourself available
Any time when remote employees will be in the office, make sure you clear time in your schedule to have one-on-ones and consider how you can maximize the time with a team-building activity or collaboration exercise. You might also set aside some time for virtual office hours so remote employees can feel comfortable “stopping by your desk” to chat without having any particular agenda or needing an appointment.
Don’t let information silos occur
When discussions and decisions occur in the office, remote employees are often unintentionally excluded. This can create information silos — not to mention confusion and frustration. Hassan recommends using a team-wide tool for documenting and approving decisions so remote employees can stay in the loop.
Hybrid work: Here’s what else you need to know
Hybrid work isn’t going anywhere. When given the choice, 83% of workers say they prefer a hybrid model. And in today’s challenging talent market, workers know that if their company isn’t willing to be flexible on this point, they can easily find another employer who will be.
What are the essentials you need to know when setting up a hybrid work model at your organization? Explore more tips and insights from Hassan in this on-demand webinar, A 4-Part Framework for Building a Hybrid Workplace.