An Introduction to Workplace Communication

Different types of communication

We communicate every day – with our family and friends, colleagues, and strangers. But how, when, and where we speak to different people varies depending on a number of factors.

At work, you may make a choice between arranging a video call with a client or sending them an email. In your personal life, you might send your friend a voice note to catch up on your week or wait until you meet up in person at the weekend. All of these differences will impact the way you communicate.

It can help to break down the types of communication you’re likely to experience by the channel you’re using and the style in which you need to communicate:

In the workplace, you will experience a number of different types of communication. It could be remote video calls with your team, emails from other departments, or formal face-to-face meetings. Even that glance across the office from a colleague would be considered non-verbal communication.

By non-verbal, we’re referring to the physical postures and gestures which go alongside what you say, the tone and pace of your voice, and the overall attitude with which you communicate. Non-verbal cues can be subtle yet powerful, but they aren’t present every time you communicate. In fact, a lot of workplace communication lacks non-verbal cues – for example, emails and phone calls.

Communication can also be either:

As you can see, there’s a lot more to communication than you may initially think.

In any workplace, effective communication is essential. Employees need to be able to communicate with each other in order to exchange information and ideas, collaborate on projects, and resolve conflicts. Good communication also helps to build relationships and create a positive work environment.

Yet all too often we make important communication decisions under pressure. We’re dealing with lots of notifications and alerts all fighting for our attention and we don’t always take care of what we’re saying. What’s more, professional matters are often conducted via phone, text chat, and other forms of communication where nonverbal context clues are lost.

Using high-quality, face-to-face video conferencing technology helps, but doesn’t always guarantee that nonverbal communication is maintained. Trying to maximize effective communication – especially when expectations can really vary between companies – is something all employees should be working on.

The impact of remote work

The way we work has changed dramatically in recent years, with more people finding that they can do their jobs from anywhere in the world. In September 2021, half of British workers (50%) were still working from home at least some of the time, up from 37% before the pandemic, according to YouGov data.

An even higher number (60%) would prefer to work remotely always or some of the time if they could choose. While this flexibility has many benefits, it can also have a negative impact on effective communication.

When team members are spread out across different time zones, it can be difficult to schedule video conferences or phone calls. And even when everyone is online at the same time, there can be lag times or internet connection issues that make real-time conversations difficult. Remote communication can sometimes feel less personal than in-person interactions, which can make it harder to build trust and connection. It can be hard to build rapport with someone when you’ve never met face-to-face.

As a result, many remote teams have found that they need to be more intentional about communication to help ensure that everyone is on the same page, making an effort to be clear and concise.