The shift to remote work during the pandemic has given rise to a new concern among employees: proximity bias. This bias suggests that bosses tend to favour employees they regularly see in the office, potentially hindering career growth for those who work remotely. Despite the benefits of remote work, such as improved work-life balance and flexibility, workers worry about being overlooked and forgotten. According to LinkedIn research, nearly half of the workers believe those working from the office are more likely to receive favourable treatment from senior team members.
To address this issue, Dr Nick Zygouris, Director of Mental Health at Maximus UK, offers practical advice on how to approach conversations with employers about flexible working arrangements. Firstly, it is essential to understand your legal rights, as all employees have the right to request flexible working. By conducting thorough research and being confident in what you are asking for, you can increase the chances of your employer being receptive to your request. When starting a new job, clearly communicate your expectations regarding flexible working during the contract negotiation phase. Honesty and openness from the beginning can benefit both parties in the long run.
Planning ahead and demonstrating how remote work can benefit you and the company is crucial. Before discussing remote work with your manager:
- Prepare a written request and address any concerns your employer might have.
- Be open to compromise and suggest a trial period to showcase your commitment and adaptability.
- Use virtual tools to maintain face time with colleagues and bosses, ensuring strong relationships are nurtured.
- Reassure your employer that you are willing to use technology effectively, but also be mindful of the importance of quality over quantity when it comes to scheduling calls and meetings.
Emphasizing the importance of mental well-being, Dr Nick highlights that flexible and remote working arrangements can bring numerous benefits to employers, promoting workplace equality and inclusivity. It enables parents to return to work, reduces the gender pay gap, accommodates individuals with fluctuating health conditions, and helps carers balance their work and personal responsibilities.
Finally, Dr Nick encourages employees to speak up about their career progression, even when working remotely. It is crucial to highlight achievements, progress, and acquired knowledge regularly. Assertiveness is critical, as being your cheerleader can demonstrate why you deserve recognition for your work. For new remote employees, don’t hesitate to request a buddy scheme or similar initiatives to facilitate networking and development.
The conversation about flexible working should be smooth, and employees should feel empowered and equipped to approach their employers. By following the provided advice, employees can navigate the challenges posed by proximity bias and ensure that remote work arrangements support their career growth and success.