As a business owner, it's important to keep an open line of communication with your team members and address their concerns. This approach can help you build a positive company culture, increase employee engagement and avoid confusion. Business meetings are often formal and tend to focus on the problems your company is facing. Office hours, on the other hand, make it easier to connect with your staff on a more personal level and strengthen employee relations.

What Are Office Hours?

The concept of office hours is often associated with academia, including colleges, high schools and study groups. It usually defines a prearranged time when a professor is available in his office to answer students' questions and provide assistance. This can be a great opportunity for students to discuss majors and career paths and seek clarification of material presented in the class.

Business owners, team leaders and CEOs may use this strategy too. Office hours are valuable for both employees and employers, helping them connect and share opinions in a less formal setting. This is a good way to boost employee morale, get to know your team better and discuss any issues they may have.

Nearly 60% of employees say that they are not being given clear directions, and two-thirds of managers don't feel comfortable communicating with their team members. These issues may result in poor internal communication, conflicts and misunderstandings. Office hours give you the opportunity to discuss matters openly with your staff and gain insights on how they feel about their work. Consider these three reasons to use this strategy.

1. Increase Employee Engagement

Organizations with highly engaged employees are up to 21% more profitable than those with disengaged teams. They also report nearly 60% lower turnover and 41% less absenteeism, according to Gallup. Holding office hours can help you create a culture of engagement and retain top talent.

Set one or two hours aside each week to chat with your team members. Ideally, do it outside office hours when everyone is stressed and trying to get things done. Use this opportunity to thank your employees for their hard work, discuss any challenges they are facing and offer your help.

If you're planning to change something about your business or the workplace, let your employees know about it. Encourage them to provide feedback and come up with solutions. Keep the conversation casual and listen to what they have to say.

2. Improve Internal Communications

A 2016 Gatehouse survey revealed that only 27% of internal communicators believe employees understand the decisions taken at the executive level. Furthermore, 44% of employees say that their leaders fail to provide clear directions about where the company is headed, reports IBM. As a manager, it's important to get your team involved in the decision-making process so they feel trusted and find meaning in their work.

Consider holding office hours to discuss any major decisions before scheduling a formal meeting. Make sure your team members have a good understanding of why they are doing what they're doing and how your decisions will affect their work.

Office hours also give you a chance to bring up any issues related to the workplace. Bullying, harassment and conflicts are all potential topics. If, say, someone in the organization tends to pick on other employees, you can have an open conversation and solve the problem before it escalates.

3. Boost Employee Morale and Motivation

Employees who feel their voice is heard are nearly five times more motivated to reach peak performance and deliver their best work. By holding office hours, you're giving your team members a chance to share their ideas and feel involved in the business. It's a great opportunity to encourage ongoing peer feedback, discuss future projects and help your staff grow professionally.

These conversations can boost employee morale, leading to greater productivity. If your employees see that they can trust you and communicate openly, they will feel more motivated to perform their best work. Plus, good communication creates accountability, reduces unnecessary stress and provides purpose.

Set up a recurring time for office hours (outside of the busiest business hours) and encourage your team to show up. Send a reminder a few days before as well as on the day of the event. Your employees may not participate at first, and that's perfectly fine. Keep sending reminders and let them know that you are there for them.