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Is Now a Good Time to Talk? Maintaining an Open Door Environment While Working Remotely

An open-door environment is more than a policy outlined in an employee handbook.  It speaks to a culture that encourages all employees to approach members of management with questions or concerns, as well as suggestions or feedback.  When encouraged and brought to life, it means that organizational leadership maintains a true pulse on the organization and can feel confident that the team is communicating any concerns, issues or challenges. All that said, working remotely and adhering to the rules of social distancing add a whole new twist to staying connected, and keeping the door “open”.

It takes work and effort to maintain an open-door environment in our current situation.  Here are some general practices and expectations to help support productivity, while maintaining some of the benefits that teams experienced when they were working under the same roof.

Schedule online team meetings to stay connected and engaged with employees.

  • It is highly recommended that teams meet more often than they would in the office to keep everyone on the same page and communicating when issues arise.

Schedule one-on-one online pulse meetings once or twice weekly to get a read on each individual employee.

  • Use this time not just to check in on work, but also to check in on personal lives, family, and overall well-being.

Have open online “office hours” where employees know you are standing by, waiting for them to connect and discuss anything on their mind.

  • Some online meeting applications offer a “waiting room” feature.  This is a great time to utilize that, as you can have people wait while the other employee joins you in the meeting room for a discussion.

Pay attention to the participation, or lack thereof, from employees.

  • A lack of active engagement in web-based or online meetings, from an employee that typically is an active participant in an in-person meeting, may be a sign that the employee is struggling in the current environment.

Lastly, in order to maintain an open-door environment for the length of this stay-at home order, managers must fully support and live up to the expectations that come with it.  They need to be available for their employees, listen deeply, and most importantly act or follow through.  The best open-door environments make employee feedback, questions and suggestions a casual, “every day” part of working. When true transparency and free-flowing communication between employees and managers exist, amazing work can happen, even during a pandemic!

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