Who gets the better performance appraisal – employees working remotely or those in the office?


Who gets the better performance appraisal — employees working remotely or those in the office?

As companies embarked on their first performance appraisal season with roles distinctly work from home (WFH), hybrid or fully work from office (WFO), ‘proximity bias’ has found its way into the equation, with those performing duties from home concerned they might stand to lose out on increments and promotions.

While companies said they were cognisant of employee concerns and taking steps proactively, so no such differentiation occurs, HR experts said it’s a grey area.

“It is fair to say that proximity bias is real,” said Arvind Usretay, commercial leader, India and South Asia, Mercer Consulting (India). “Managers may unknowingly, or through personal preference, value higher the performance of workers who spend more physical time in the office, have frequent contact with leadership or are just more visible through meetings etc. This may well lead to disparities between remote/hybrid workers and workers-in-office.”

Companies such as

said they ensured there was no difference in the kind of hikes given to WFH employees. Chief human resources officer (CHRO) Adarsh Mishra told ET that almost all employees were back in office, but organisation-wide, a handful of women have been allowed to work from home because of personal constraints.

“During our recent appraisals, we ensured there was no difference in the kind of hikes given to these employees versus the rest. Average hikes across the board were around 10%,” he said.

Microsoft India said it hasn’t come across instances of distance bias yet, even as working flexibly 50% of the time is standard for most jobs. “It’s too early to say how the distance bias will play out in performance appraisals… Being human, this will happen; we have not encountered this yet,” HR head Ira Gupta said.


Location no bar for some companies

The company actively works on making managers understand that such biases are dangerous, and it is important to trust team members to do the right thing.

At a Gurgaon-based MNC, a group of WFH employees approached the functional head and sought clarity on any differentiation in appraisals. “While our team leaders allayed all immediate fears, we will continue to address concerns,” said the company HR head, who didn’t want to be named.

General Insurance took a conscious call not to factor in location. About 85-90% of employees work in hybrid mode, with about 65% of them able to work from anywhere. “Our overall vision is to come out of the traditional mindset and be an organisation that is more friendly,” said CHRO Melvin Gladstone. “That is the way all the leaders work, and we have taken a conscious call not to factor in location during appraisals.”

Fighting the mindset

Another Delhi-based HR head of a manufacturing firm said that at some point there is likely to be some discrimination in the way people who are coming into office regularly are appraised, versus those who mostly work from home.

“I already see it in informal discussions with IT/tech HR folks,” the person said. “You may want to avoid the bias but there is a psychological angle at play here — out of sight does mean out of mind sometimes. The team meetings, after-office meetups etc, all help in the kind of equation you are building up with your bosses.”

Proximity bias is rooted in the way organisations currently work, said K Sudarshan, managing director, EMA Partners India.

“Most senior leadership teams are back at the workplace while a good majority of staff at the middle and junior management levels are still reluctant to make their way back to offices full-time. This is creating a bit of dissonance and a certain level of discontinuity and poor engagement in the organisation,” he said. “Over time, we cannot rule out an inherent bias in the minds of supervisors and could potentially impact the careers of such people who operate on a hybrid basis.”


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