In 1988, the New York Times published an article with a new term - mommy track. It highlighted a new two-level system in the legal system, where women with children were at the bottom level. Yes, law firms offered women flexible working hours, child care, maternity leave, and so on but as a consequence, they are perceived as lesser serious than their male counterparts for having to focus on family.Nothing much has changed today. Women are still more inclined to choose remote or hybrid working when compared to men. The pandemic was especially a game changer, with more women quitting full-time jobs due to unequal childcare responsibilities and lack of support. A 2021 LinkedIn survey revealed that women are 26 per cent more likely to apply to remote jobs than men. Even as the world and workforce limped back to normal, women still valued the benefits of remote work. This has thrown up fresh concerns that work-life balance and gender inclusivity aside, remote working could turn women into second-class employees as per a Forbes article. The article went on to state that women who opt for hybrid or remote working conditions could also be passed up for promotions and key leadership roles. How can we take steps to make sure this doesnt happen?Eliminate Proximity Bias'Out of sight, out of mind' goes the adage, and that might well be the case in a hybrid work culture. Proximity bias is the all too common buzzword doing the rounds in workplaces where some employees work from home, and others go to the office. Proximity bias is a new term, which refers to favouritism shown to employees who are able to come to work, against those who work remotely, says Sadhna Sharma, Dubai-based HR executive with a construction firm. The fact that top management can interact face-to-face and personally with these employees has a lot to do with proximity bias. The tendency is to believe that these people work harder than offsite employees because we are physically able to see what they do during working hours. I think the key to bridging this bias is to create systems that establish trust and transparency. From the employers side - if youve decided to offer them the option of working from home, youve got to let go of monitoring every minute of their time. Try to make sure that remote employees are also connected virtually to all meetings and conferences that concern them. Request them to come in twice a month, to build a personal connection. Keep a virtual strategy in place with shared documents, daily video calls, and so on. From the employees side keep your peers and managers up-to-date with your work. Communicate on a daily basis and let them know how youve spent your work day. Use a daily log if required. Try to schedule conversations with your manager once or twice a week. Check in with a trusted colleague to see what has happened at work, what promotions are open, and what happens at office. Ask for feedback constantly. It is better to arrest problems at a nascent stage than to have them snowball into larger issues because your boss didnt focus on your work.Work Around Productivity ParanoiaIn September 2022, a Microsoft survey of more than 20,000 employees worldwide revealed that 85 per cent of top leadership said that hybrid working has made it difficult for them to feel confident about their employees productivity and commitment to the job. Says Sharma, Sometimes, the need to see the process and time spent on work, that we forget to focus on the outcome. Remember, the end result is important. Are your employees delivering what they promised? Are they meeting deadlines? Those factors are more important than micromanaging their working day. Make them accountable for results not the process itself. Dont rely only on visual cues. In fact, your employees are likely to be more productive when you empower them and show that you value their contribution. As an employee, if youve taken longer over a project, explain why. Tell your boss about any hurdles or roadblocks. Similarly, if youve finished submitting something before time, explain how you put in those extra hours overtime to get the job done. Time taken and quality are the two most common metrics that employers look for make sure you dont give them a reason to complain on both counts!Build Social CapitalSocial capital is the value of your network and relationships in the workplace, and it looks like Gen Z-ers understand it best of all. An Accenture survey revealed that 74 per cent of Gen Z-ers want more opportunities to meet face-to-face when compared to 66 per cent of Gen X-ers. 25-year-old Kruti Mishra, who works for a boutique digital marketing and website management company says, In the initial years of ones career, one needs to actively scout contacts and invest time and effort in cultivating a network both within your company and in your industry. Since the pandemic, our organisation has chosen a hybrid work culture, and so we need to focus even more on building social capital. Not only do I schedule regular conversations and coffees with my peers and managers (even when I dont need to!), I also make sure I stay in touch with clients and other valuable contacts. You never know what opportunities you will encounter and who can be beneficial to your professional growth!Navigating a hybrid workplace while also setting yourself up for success can seem like a challenging prospect. However, both women employees and their managers can work towards this goal consciously and systematically to ensure that remote working doesnt get in the way of gender equity in the workforce.