What Is an Open Door Policy and How to Create an Effective One in Your Firm?

Improving office communication, bolstering team productivity and ensuring overall employee well-being should be some of the key objectives of any business. And ultimately, what is an open door policy, if not a way to address all these areas through one simple mechanism?

Used adroitly, an open door policy can improve efficiencies, boost engagement and lead to the rapid resolution of unexpected roadblocks. Here, we’ll explain why you should implement an open door policy in your own office, as well as how to start going about creating a blueprint for its utilization. 

1. What Is An Open Door Policy?

An open door policy workplace-wise is when a line manager or team leader makes themselves accessible to all staff that work underneath them. The idea is that the door of their office is, quite literally, open for individuals to pop their head in to discuss any concerns or issues that they have. 

Of course, in an open-plan office, there may not be an actual door. The implication is simply that bosses will make themselves available (within reason) when employees are in need of guidance.

2. Significance Of An Open Door Policy In Organizations

Significance Of An Open Door Policy In Organizations

2.1 Understand Employees

What is an open door policy but an opportunity to better understand your staff? The more regular your communication with your team, the easier it will be to predict and provide for their needs. As a result, you can expect an increase in group productivity.

2.2 Open Communication 

One of the most important open door policy effects is that it allows for better communication and transparency. Research has shown that teams with greater openness are 60% more likely to achieve more, faster. Plus, building rapport can have a hugely beneficial effect on staff well-being and happiness in a job. 

2.3 Increased Levels of Engagement

Engagement is a key predictor of whether staff stay in a role. In fact, engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave a company than their disengaged colleagues. Having an open door policy lets people know that they have an avenue to express any work-related complications, and that the boss is willing to listen. This in turn leads to increased levels of engagement.

2.4 Easy Access to Information 

open door policies mean more access to information – and that cuts both ways. For staff, they are able to draw upon the rich resource that is an experienced manager, which is a great way for them to learn problem-solving strategies. For managers, having staff who feel comfortable raising issues means being kept in the loop regarding any roadblocks that may be stalling progress on a project or sales target.

2.5 Encourages Creativity Among Employees

Nurturing an environment where employees are able to bounce ideas off their colleagues and managers is a useful way to develop creativity. This has a knock-on effect on individual contentment and fulfillment, as people generally feel more stimulated and excited by a job that lets them flex their creative muscles. An open door policy introduces an atmosphere in which frank discussion can flourish and potential solutions are more readily apparent.

2.6 Improved Workplace Relations Between Employers and Employees

We’ve already touched on how an open door policy can improve workplace relations in regard to promoting communication and understanding. Another aspect to consider is whether an open door policy in grievance handling could lead to faster, more satisfactory resolutions of any interpersonal mishaps that occur, no matter if they are between an employer and an employee or two members of the same team.

3. How To Set Up An Open Door Policy?

How To Set Up An Open Door Policy?

3.1 Set Boundaries

One of the biggest downsides companies face when trying to implement an open door policy is that interruptions can become so frequent that they disrupt work. What is an open door policy’s usefulness, after all, if it actually frustrates rather than fosters productivity? To avoid any issues such as these, make sure you set boundaries with your staff about how the concept will actually function. For example, you could define your open door hours as between 2pm to 3pm daily.

3.2 Communicate the Policy Clearly to Team Members

Once you have got your boundaries in place, ensure all team members are aware of the parameters. There’s no use in coming up with a plan if it’s not communicated clearly to all staff. Preferably, you should do this by email, so there is a clear record of the discussion and any individual who needs to can refer back to the policy with ease.

3.3 Explain the Purpose of The Policy

You may already know what is an open door policy, but your staff need to know, too. Outline some of the points discussed above, particularly those that will clearly be conducive to their work lives, such as benefits to communication, easy access to information and improved workplace relations. Once people understand the purpose, they will be more comfortable and enthusiastic engaging with the idea.

3.4 Actively Listen to Employees

Active listening is a skill that can be developed like any other. Some common techniques that help you focus more on what a person is saying include paying attention to non-verbal cues, paraphrasing back what has been said and practicing good eye contact. Remember: there’s no point in having an open door policy if you don’t take full advantage of actually absorbing what your staff are saying and how they are feeling.

3.5 Address the Concerns and Complaints

Once you have heard any concerns and/or complaints, consider what solutions are available to you. Employees need to feel that their voices are really being heard in order for the benefits of an open door policy to take effect. The best way to demonstrate that you are paying attention is to provide resolutions wherever possible, or at the very least an explanation as to why something cannot be resolved just at that moment.

3.6 Be Unbiased While Taking Decisions

It should go without saying that any advice you give or conclusions you reach must be objective and unbiased. Even if you are blindsided by an issue, make sure you take the time to weigh up what is being said. Don’t feel you need to immediately come up with a solution. An open door policy means giving staff more opportunities to communicate with their manager. It does not necessarily mean on-the-spot decision-making.3.7 Always Take Feedbacks and Improvise

What is an open door policy’s main use? Essentially, feedback, in one form or another. There may be occasions when your open door policy leads to constructive criticism about you as a manager. Don’t take this personally, but reflect on how you could improve your leadership style. For instance, a member of staff might come to you saying they don’t always feel they have a clear idea of your expectations. This is excellent information to know, as you can then set about creating a clearer outline of their responsibilities and goals.

4. Open- Door Policy Examples

Open- Door Policy Examples

4.1 HP

HP has a long-standing open door policy that has three main objectives. The first is to create a day-to-day atmosphere of candid communication between managers and their teams. The second is to maintain a mechanism for employees to seek advice or solicit feedback. Finally, HP aims to use the concept to identify issues early, so they can be rapidly rectified. As an underlying principle, the company emphasizes that staff should be able to speak to their boss’s honestly, without fear of retaliation.  

4.2 IBM

IBM has two streams of open door policy that it provides to its employees. The first encourages staff to approach upper management with any qualms or concerns, thereby bypassing any direct line managers who may not be adequately addressing their issues, either intentionally or unintentionally. Second, individuals who may be worried that any problems they raise may hinder their career prospects are able to report problems anonymously through a dedicated phone line, email account or postal address.

4.3 Keka

If you want an example of how to format your own open door policy, HR platform Keka has a very transparent model you can utilize as a template. As well as clearly stating what is an open door policy and its scope, Keka’s blueprint is broken down into different types of interaction: complaints, feedback, counseling, issue resolution, personal topics, and safety and harassment. The policy also highlights a clear set of boundaries regarding the time, place and way to arrange discussions.

5. FAQs

  • Who made the open door policy?

Who created the open door policy in the workplace is something of a mystery. It is not attributed to any specific person. It is simply a business concept that has gained traction in recent years, as more companies have analyzed the benefits of open communication between managers and staff.

  • What is an open door policy example?

Let’s say an individual has encountered a problem with a client. If their manager has an open door policy, they could immediately seek advice about how to resolve the issue, rather than having to solve it without input from a more experienced person or allowing it to fester.

  • Is open door policy good?

There are open door policy advantages and disadvantages. Whether or not it is suitable for your team or company depends on several factors, but ultimately, it never hurts to consider new ways of working.