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Breaking Down Barriers: Benefits of an Open-Door Policy

Wednesday, September 12, 2018 9:00 AM

Expert Advice

Written by: Margaret Moran

Margaret Moran
Senior content specialist

An open-door policy is more than simply leaving your office door open. It’s a management style that encourages staff to have access to you and your leadership. The purpose of an open-door policy is to eliminate barriers between management and staff to facilitate open communication in the practice. When employees are able and feel comfortable approaching you to talk candidly, then you truly have an open-door policy in place and can reap the following rewards.

Improved communication. An open door invites employees to pop in to discuss an issue, ask a question, or come forward with an idea. These informal, impromptu conversations can prove fruitful, as they can give you better insight into what is happening in the practice on a daily basis. In such a fast-paced business as health care, having as much pertinent information as possible is vital to making well-informed decisions for the practice and staff.

It's OK to Close Your Door Sometimes

While an open-door policy has many benefits, there are drawbacks. Administrators who leave their door open constantly could find themselves regularly interrupted, preventing them from getting vital work done. Their workload could also increase due to fielding and solving problems that employees should be able to manage. Such a scenario is counterproductive to the practice’s overall success.

As a practice administrator, it is essential to recognize that your time is valuable and important in making the practice run. Setting realistic parameters around an open-door policy — i.e., establishing specific office hours — can allow you to remain productive while also being accessible for employees. By setting boundaries, you ensure that the open-door policy is not abused or misused.

Reduced uncertainty. Open communication can improve understanding between staff and management. When staff is unsure of how to handle a situation or unclear about a task, an open-door policy allows them to come to you for clarification. The resulting clarity allows employees to perform at their best by accomplishing tasks in a timely fashion with less chance of making mistakes. Since employees are vital to practice operations, when they succeed, the practice is better positioned for success.

Expedited problem solving. Without the barrier of a closed door, employees are more apt to inform management of an escalating issue or a pressing matter when it arises. When issues are known early on, chances are they can be resolved or defused before they become more problematic. This allows the practice to run more smoothly with fewer major unexpected crises or urgent matters cropping up, making for a more pleasant work environment.

Enhanced collaboration. When information can be exchanged freely between management and staff, it allows everyone to be on the same page. As a business, practices have goals, objectives, and a vision ― and an action plan in place to reach those aims. When everyone is aware of what needs to be done, they can collectively work toward achieving those business targets. Working together as one team is always more effective in attaining success than having individuals functioning in independent silos.

Strengthened work relationships. An open-door policy promotes an honest, friendly culture. When practice leadership welcomes discussions with employees, it proves that they care about personnel. When staff members feel that you are invested in them, it allows for closer work relationships to form. Having a good relationship with staff earns their respect and improves their loyalty and productivity, allowing the practice to thrive.

Leave the Door Open

Respectful and consistent communication is one of the pillars of a successful organization, as it promotes understanding, cooperation, conflict resolution, and trust among personnel. Instituting an open-door policy opens up the practice to all those benefits. With so much to gain, why would you shut your door?

YOUR TURN: How does an open-door policy benefit your practice? Please leave your input in the comment section below.


  • Susan Donoway said Reply

    My open-door policy helps to create a family-like environment. It helps minimize the distance between staff and management. Issues are resolved quickly, which, in turn, prevents animosity among the staff. They work as a cohesive unit to better serve the patients we care for.

    I want my staff to enjoy coming to work — it is the most crucial element that I require. If someone is not happy, I'll sit down with that person and hash it out, whether it's a co-worker problem or a system problem. Happy staff perform better and invest more of themselves to provide a great experience for our patients.

    • BSMAdmin said Reply

      Hi Susan,
      Thanks for sharing how your open-door policy benefits your practice. We particularly like the point of how it creates a "family-like environment". What an excellent benefit to mention.

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