Minimise Proximity Bias using a HR Performance Management System

Although the jury is still out to a certain extent on how many people will return to ‘normal’ ways of working post-Covid, it’s easy to see the numerous attractions of working from home for many sectors of the working population.

Remote work has allowed people to ditch those mind-numbing and time-consuming commutes, it’s increased the time we spend with our families and our friends, and in many cases, it’s brought about a significant daily saving in travel costs, lunches, coffees etc.

No less convincing a source than Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, which studied more than 30,000 people across 31 jurisdictions, found that over seven out of ten of us want some form of remote option.

But for companies who embrace such work practices, what are the pitfalls to look out for – and how can you protect against a bias towards office-based individuals and teams? We’ve got some useful tips below.

1) Know who’s ‘staying’ and who’s ‘going’.

There’s seldom been a greater onus on companies to find out exactly what your people are thinking than right now. A platform like Frankli can help you run simple polls, so you can quickly and accurately predict what the shape of ‘tomorrow’s office’ may be. This could influence everything from your plans to upgrade or downgrade your office space to introducing systems and practices that treat office-based people and remote workers equally.

2) Identify the principles for hybrid guidelines.

Once you know what sort of a WFH or hybrid model you’ll be operating over the coming months, make sure you spell out some basic guiding human resource principles as to how it will work in practice and understand how it will fit both individual performance and your strategic goals. For example, you might want to specify that new hires need to spend a lot more time in the office until they’re up-to-speed on how the company operates, or they’ve been fully trained or properly onboarded. Or maybe you’d like to spell out that each person who is working remotely must spend an agreed number of days per month in the office for things like sales meetings, creative sessions etc. Annual reviews and performance appraisals don’t need to be put on the backfoot. These principles and activities for high-performance teams can be enshrined in your HR performance management system.

3) Don’t wave goodbye to office camaraderie.

One of the things that people who are working remotely say they miss the most is the camaraderie of the office and the simple pleasure of interacting with colleagues and other members of their team. But just because workers may be operating from home, there’s no need for them to feel isolated. They can just as easily have a cup of coffee and a chat with colleagues via Zoom or Teams as in ‘the real world’. This can work particularly well if you arrange a Zoom call for ‘elevenses’ or ‘fourses’ and your people can choose to join in or not – depending on how busy they are or how hungry for the company they might be. A  HR performance management system can check on a regular basis that your people are happy with either WFH or hybrid, and nip any problems of disconnection or even of loneliness in the bud.

4) Make it clear that the new practices are a work in progress.

For many companies, there’s no guaranteed roadmap for how hybrid working or working from home will pan out. It’s essential, therefore, that you give it the time to find its own level and to check in with people about how they’re finding the new arrangements. You should make it clear from the outset that adjustments may be made on an ongoing basis in response to trialling and new learnings.


5) Make sure that lack of proximity doesn’t mean lack of career opportunity.

There is a potential and understandable concern on the part of remote workers that ‘out of sight could mean out of mind’. In other words, there may be a fear that fellow team members who are casually dropping into the boss’s office for an informal chat are better placed for promotion and career advancement. 

However, by having an effective HR performance management system in place, they can be included in all major office discussions such as in 1 on 1’s and apply for any upcoming promotion opportunities – as if they were physically present in the office.


6) Choose your preferred communication methods wisely.

You need to invest some thought into what communications methods are most suitable for staying in touch with remote or hybrid team members. As a general rule, email conveys less information and even less context. However, video and face-to-face are excellent for conveying more information and lending more context and nuance to the conversation. Another point to be aware of is that email works well for teams with close relationships amongst both managers and employees. They already know each other, so they don’t require added context. When it comes to employee engagement on newly-assembled teams, however, face-to-face or video calls tend to work best.

7) Rethink about the kind of office space that will woo people back.

Ultimately, it’s your people rather than employers who will decide the shape of tomorrow’s workplace. However, if your company places a premium on having people physically present in the office, now is an excellent time to review what sort of an office environment could potentially woo your people back as part of your development plan. Could you help halve people’s commute, for example, by offering flexible start and finishing hours, so they don’t have to battle through rush hour traffic in the mornings and in the evenings? Alternatively, could you consider offering a concierge service so that your people could get some of those simple household jobs nailed while in the office.  A personal butler - now that’s a nice thought!


For further information on how Frankli can help implement an effective performance management system, please Get in Touch Here

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