Why You Should Implement a Closed-Door, Open-Calendar Policy

June 21, 2017

There are a few pros to an open-door policy, but many more cons. A closed-door, open-calendar policy is far more effective.

An open-door policy sounds great, right? It breaks down barriers and increases collaboration among all levels, right?

Well, that’s the theory. But, in practice, often it has the opposite effect.

Open-door policies invariably lead to more interruptions, LinkedIn Learning Instructor and Time Management Guru David Crenshaw said. And it takes the average knowledge worker 23 minutes and 4 seconds to get back to task after an interruption, according to researchers from the University of California, Irvine.

That’s a lot of wasted time! Not to mention the annoyance of interruptions, which leads to bad exchanges and strained relationships – defeating the purpose of having an open-door policy in the first place.

So enough with open-door policies – Crenshaw has a better proposal.

“I would suggest a closed-door, open-calendar policy instead,” Crenshaw said in his Time Management Tips course. “This is the idea that anyone can schedule themselves into an available time slot to talk with you and then during that time, you're 100 percent focused on them.”

That means exactly what it sounds – managers and employees alike should be left undisturbed when focusing on their work. But, employees also leave times open on their calendar where they’ll meet with whomever, and give them their full attention.

How exactly do you effectively implement a closed-door, open-calendar policy? Crenshaw said it comes down to these four steps:

1. Have a time where your calendar is open each day.

To have an effective closed-door, open-calendar policy, all employees should either have free time on their calendar or have set office hours each day where anyone can ask them a question.

To communicate your office hours, you can send out a calendar invite to all relevant parties or you can have a sign on your office door letting them know (or both). Otherwise, just ensure your calendar isn’t booked full every day, as a closed-door, open-calendar policy doesn’t work if you don’t have any openings on your calendar.

2. Set the expectation that questions should be asked during those times.

Here’s the next part – yes, it’s great to have a time each day where people can ask questions, or to encourage people to set a meeting with you. But, if people don’t respect that and ask questions whenever it’s convenient to them, it won't solve the problem.

It’s up to you to remind people when they have a question to ask it during your office hour or to set an appointment with you. It can be a bit uncomfortable at first, but a few polite reminders is generally all it takes.

3. Keep your appointments.

Just like you want others to respect your time by asking their questions during your office hour or during appointments, you also need to respect their time and keep your appointments. By doing this, you build trust and ensure the closed-door, open-calendar policy continues.

4. When someone makes an appointment, give them your full attention.

If someone comes in during your office hours or they make an appointment with you, you need to give them your full attention and answer their questions as completely as you can. Not only is this the right thing to do, it also ensures they don’t have to ask a lot of follow-up questions later.

“Let them know that you have nothing more important to do than to meet with them during that time,” Crenshaw said. “This, again, will build more trust and validate that they are important to you, which is really the whole point of why people started the open-door policy in the first place.” 

Bottom line, an open-door policy sounds great, but it simply isn't practical. A closed-door, open-calendar policy is far more effective, if executed correctly.

*Image from Andy Eick, Flickr

Looking for more time management tips that will make you more productive? Check out Dave Crenshaw’s Time Management Tips Weekly course today.