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Before Covid-19, my office door was always open for my team. Whether someone was stopping by to get a question answered or for a quick chat, it was important to me to be accessible.
Fast forward to post-pandemic times where many employees are working remotely. After decades of running my business, I faced a new leadership challenge: how to maintain an “open door policy” when not all team members are physically in the office.
Related: 7 Ways Workers Can Have an Open Door Policy Without Going Crazy
What is an open door policy?
Generally, an open door policy is a work environment where employees are encouraged to share work-related ideas, concerns, comments, and opinions with their superiors, without fear of recrimination or condemnation. However, it is up to you to decide what an open door policy looks like in your business. Like most business policies, the concept ranges from a literal open door where employees are always welcome to interrupt with any issues to only being available during predetermined hours.
In my experience, the reality is somewhere in the middle: the point is to encourage communication between management and staff. There are five vital parts to making your open door policy a success, whether your employees are in the office or working remotely.
Part 1: Actions, not words
Just put a sign outside your office that says, “My door is always open,” no successful leader has ever said. Proclaiming yourself an “open door” boss is not enough to encourage communication. And the behavior of so many bosses makes it clear that feedback is not welcome. Accessibility and active listening send the right signals to your team, and not being physically in the office should never seem like a disservice to remote workers.
The success of an open door policy is a measure of trust between employees and their bosses, and you can be sure that workers are looking for signs that their words are heard and valued. Whether you’re communicating in person or via video chat, it’s crucial to look at the person speaking, watch for nonverbal clues, and make consistent eye contact.
Also, don’t interrupt or form your response while the person is still speaking. Let your remote employees know you’re available via video chat, IM, email, and phone to chat, and never make them wait too long for a response, even if it’s just to set up a time to chat in the future. .
Related: 3 Dangerous Ways You May Be Failing Your Employees
Part 2: Arrive
It is essential to get up and leave your office. If you’re sitting at our desk waiting for employees to come to you with concerns and ideas, you may be waiting a long time.
In most workplaces, there are shy and outgoing employees. The former may be comfortable approaching you, but the latter may be apprehensive. It is your responsibility to make it clear that you are available and open to listen. Proactive communication sends a positive message about your company’s communication culture and makes employees feel valued and appreciated, which is critical to employee retention.
Obviously, you can’t meet your virtual staff, so consider creating an optional “Ask Me Anything” hour once or twice a month for all employees. This is not another Zoom meeting. Don’t set a fixed agenda, but don’t let it turn into a chat or an hour of complaining either. It can take a bit of getting used to, but it’s a great way to be available to your staff without taking up most of their day.
Part 3: Set limits
Many business owners make the mistake of being too accessible with their open door policies. Some employees want to overshare and talk about their own personal issues or, even worse, gossip about other employees. Yes, your door should always be open, but limiting personal conversations is vital to ensuring everyone stays productive.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t ask how their families are doing or bring up personal topics, like asking about a recent move to a new home. And if you share a passion, like a favorite sports team or actor, mentioning a recent game or your latest movie is a great way to bond with your staff.
Related: The Amazing Benefit Employees Want That Costs The Company Nothing
Part 4: Follow Up to Ensure Success
Once you have implemented these policies, it is critical to monitor and measure progress and results. Do you and your staff communicate openly? Are your employees comfortable asking you questions, making suggestions, and acting as a cohesive team? How is the morale of the company? Do your remote workers feel included? Do your people feel respected, trusted, and valued?
It is your responsibility to ensure that your door (physical or virtual) remains open.
Part 5: Act kind
While staying productive is vital and perhaps more challenging in a hybrid office, it’s just as important to make your employees feel like they’re important to you. Having an open door policy is not enough; It is essential to treat your employees with kindness and create an ideal company culture in which they feel valued and heard.
According to The Future of Time 2022: Redefining productivity during uncertainty In a recently released Adobe report, employees prefer to work in a “purpose-driven culture that prioritizes values of support and wellness.”
Maintaining an open door policy shows your staff that you are there to support them and helps establish a work culture where employees want to work and thrive for a long time.