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How an Open-Door Policy in the Workplace Can Benefit Your Business

When it comes to keeping lines of communication open with employees, is an open-door policy a good bet? Does it mean your door is literally open at all times? Here's some background on this policy, and how it can work in your business.
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The benefits of having an open-door policy in the workplace can be numerous and potentially of great value to any business. In most companies, an open-door policy indicates to employees that a supervisor or manager is open to an employee's questions, complaints, suggestions, etc. The objective is to encourage open communication, feedback, and discussion about any concerns employees may have.

Such a policy can prove extremely valuable in your efforts to maintain employee morale and reduce employee turnover. In turn, employees can feel that they can communicate with the owner or other senior managers and understand how these strategies can affect their individual work. Employers can also benefit from learning first-hand what's important to their team.

What can happen without an open-door policy

The effects of not promoting an open-door policy in the workplace can be equally significant. Without this policy:

  • A manager, supervisor, or owner can isolate themselves from their teams.
  • Employee performance issues may not get addressed, which can lead to worsening situations.
  • Overall team morale can plummet in an environment where no open discussion takes place.
  • The quality of the culture can decline, which can lead to a drop in productivity and/or increased employee turnover.

How well employees communicate with a business owner or leader can also impact the bottom line. An individual who's blocked by an operational issue or obstacle may not be as productive as they could be. What they need is access to someone who can advise them or help resolve the issue. That's why it's essential to look at what constitutes an open-door policy and begin implementing one that makes sense for your business.

Being accessible, but setting boundaries

Setting up an open-door policy doesn't have to be difficult. It also doesn't mean your office door is literally open to employee questions and feedback every hour of the day. Keep the following in mind:

  • When designing the policy, start by determining when you want to be accessible – maybe in the morning or afternoon, or for limited times during the week.
  • Let employees know that when they find your door open, they're welcome to drop in and share their thoughts or inquiries. Conversely, when your door is closed, it may be better for them to schedule some time to meet with you.
  • It's okay to establish open-door boundaries, as well. Remind employees that your time, like theirs, is extremely valuable. Being responsible for the company's overall well-being means you can't be personally available as much as you might like. Encourage employees to carefully think through a problem and possible solution on their own before approaching you.
  • Also, let them know this policy doesn't exist to spread gossip or rumors. The focus is always on exploring obstacles or opportunities and coming up with practical solutions.

On your part, an open-door policy is a great chance to hone your listening skills. This can be difficult, as many owners and managers are often eager to talk and may feel a need to fill the voids in a conversation. But they might be better served using active listening and a closer observation of the employee's nonverbal cues. The ability to listen well is beneficial in virtually all business situations, so this is a great way to sharpen those skills to help deal later with customers and vendors.

An open-door policy can also serve as an "early warning system" for issues lurking beneath the surface. In the frenetic environment of a new startup, for example, entrepreneurs focus on forward-looking activities and may overlook underlying problems. Doing this means the startup owner may fail to acknowledge the strong emotions various employees are carrying around with them, which may be distracting them from doing their jobs. With an open-door policy, employees know you want to be informed about conflict when it happens and help them to find a resolution as soon as possible.

Communication is an essential resource for engaging and retaining your valued employees. Keep those lines open with an active open door policy.

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