Will Return to Office Mandates Prevent Proximity Bias for Employees Working from Home?

Sue Williamson, Helen Taylor, Judy Lundy, Uma Jogulu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This Practice and Policy article examines return to office mandates, the latest human resource controversy. These mandates are an organisational directive for employees who have been working from home to return to working in their employer’s premise. Drawing on the available literature and our research on working from home and hybrid working, we consider whether mandates may prevent proximity bias. We conclude that mandates requiring employees to return to the office or caps which limit working from home are not only unnecessary, but may have negative consequences. In particular, mandates may cause employee resentment, while caps limit flexibility and autonomy. We therefore do not advocate the use of these mechanisms, and recommend that managers and teams negotiate the appropriate balance of home and office working arrangements.

Points for Practitioners
• Mechanisms which force employees into the office can be seen as an easy and effective way to mitigate proximity bias. However, they can lead to employee resentment.
• Similarly, capping the number of days employees can work from home can also result in negative consequences, including reduced flexibility and employee autonomy.
• Enabling managers and teams to determine their own in office/working from home arrangements will maintain flexibility and prevent employee resentment.
• Preventing proximity bias can be achieved through increasing awareness about this emerging form of bias; creating an inclusive organisational culture; and ensuring performance management systems are based on quantifiable and objective metrics.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAustralian Journal of Public Administration
Publication statusPublished - 2024

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