At Work: bridging gaps in the workplace

Each workplace leader has tried different tactics to build a more cohesive workplace. While one leader is experimenting with office perks, another is implementing strategies to reduce proximity bias. One leader is hosting virtual team-bonding events, and another is offering more flexible work hours. Ultimately, all workplace leaders agreed that the workplace should be a place where both employees and executives can come together and feel like they are a part of a connected and supported community. Check out the videos to hear from workplace experts on what they’re doing to bridge the gaps in the workplace.

The workplace is a space for people to come together and work towards a common goal. A shared vision among employees and executives can fuel the success of a business. But what happens when these parties don’t see eye-to-eye on the role of the workplace itself?

Employees and executives have differing views when it comes to the world of work. Gaps between these two groups isn’t a new story. But it’s become far more important for executives and workplace leaders to understand what those gaps are, so they can bridge them and build alignment. After surveying 2000 employees and 500 executives in the US and the UK, we uncovered major discrepancies between how these groups saw office taboos, return-to-office deal breakers, proximity bias and more.

Closing these gaps isn’t easy, but workplace leaders across the globe are doing it successfully. We wanted to find out what real workplace leaders were doing to close some of the gaps in their workplaces. So we chatted with Emily Day, Director of Workplace Experience at Hashicorp, Max Cardinale, Vice President at Thermal Shipping Solutions, and Annette Reavis, Chief People Officer at Envoy. These workplace experts share their first-hand experiences and practical advice on how to make the workplace work for everyone.

Watch the videos to hear how Day, Cardinale, and Reavis are bridging the gaps between employees and executives on issues including proximity bias, office taboos & flexibility, deal breakers for returning to the office, and the purpose of the workplace.

1. How are workplace leaders addressing proximity bias in the workplace?

Proximity bias is the workplace phenomenon that occurs when people notice the contributions of those sitting near them in an office more than those who are working remotely. According to our workplace survey, 96% of executives admit to falling into the proximity bias trap. And 44% of employees believe that their at-home contributions are noticed just as much as their in-office contributions. This gap in perception can have a significant impact on employees who are looking to grow their career or get recognition from their managers.

So how can workplace leaders overcome proximity bias? We asked Day, Cardinale, and Reavis how they navigate proximity bias in their own workplaces. Take a listen.

“I think leaders have to be so intentional to address proximity bias. We're a largely remote company, so we put a lot of emphasis and have always designed the way we do things around how we work versus where people are located."

Director of Workplace Experience at Hashicorp

2. How are workplace leaders offering more flexibility in the workplace?

The once “normal” day at the office has changed a lot. Employees are not bound to a desk from 9 – 5. They can step out to run personal errands or take a social break at the office. However, according to our report, many employees are still worried that doing these things is going to reflect poorly on them in front of their managers. In fact, 66% of employees say there is a stigma around leaving early or coming in later, while only 49% of executives would view this negatively.

We asked Day, Cardinale, and Reavis how they felt about traditional office stigmas and how they’re helping employees be less worried about them. Plus, we asked them how they’re empowering employees to have more flexibility in their workday. Here’s what they had to say.

“I'm trying to build a productive workplace. But simultaneously, we're all human. We understand things pop up. And at the end of the day, some things are unavoidable. So people just need to be understanding of that. Open communication is what is going to lead to flexibility.”

Vice President at Thermal Shipping Solutions

3. How are workplace leaders helping employees overcome their deal breakers for returning to the office?

Companies that are open in full swing are learning that employees still have hesitations about coming back to the workplace. For some, the commute is a major barrier. For others, it’s slow wifi in the office. According to our report, executives might not always have the best pulse on what the biggest deal breakers are for employees. 33% of employees cite chatty coworkers as a deal breaker, but only 27% of executives think it’s a deal breaker. On the other hand, 28% of executives think the lack of opportunities to socialize stops employees from coming to work, but only 12% of employees say it would.

We asked Day, Cardinale, and Reavis how they’re helping employees overcome their barriers to returning to the office.

“If it’s important for the company that people are in the office on a regular basis, then it's really about building things for people to come in for. And it might not be food and beverage anymore. Maybe it is more about personal connections. Maybe it's about having one on ones in person. There's got to be a purpose that we are giving to employees beyond just ‘You need to be here.”

Director of Workplace Experience at Hashicorp

4. What is the purpose of the workplace?

Employees and executives aren’t always aligned when it comes to the “why” behind returning to the office. While 61% of employees believe the purpose of the workplace is productivity, 46% of executives say the purpose is relationship-building.

We asked Day, Cardinale, and Reavis what they believe is the primary purpose of the workplace. Is it a place for productivity, relationship-building, or a combination of both?

“I strongly believe the purpose of the workplace is to build community and to help talent grow from good to great, great to greater. If you're coming together for a purpose, to [make an] impact, or to take something to the next level, [then] you come into the workplace to do that.”

Chief People Officer at Envoy