Types of communication channels and styles at work

different types of communication channels

Believe it or not, words are just a small portion of how we communicate with each other on a daily level.

Learning about different types and styles of communication, but as well types of communication channels we can use at work, can help us become more efficient, understand others, but also keep morale and teamwork in check.

Since we know the importance of effective communication in the workplace, we decided to list and explain types of workplace communication, types of communication channels we can use at work, and how to master each one of them.

Communication channels types

Each day, we use different types of communication to send our messages. Our preferred methods of communication will largely depend on a situation and the context, but it’s always a good thing to have a clear overview of all the different ways we can communicate with our clients, managers, and coworkers.

Formal and informal communication. When we say formal communication, we usually mean on discussions we lead with people we’re not friends with and in situations where following business etiquette is a must. Formal communication usually asks for more formal channels of communication that can be controlled such as email, for instance. On the other hand, informal communication usually implies we’re discussing topics that have little or nothing to do with work such as talking about our plans for the weekend with our coworkers via water fountain or private chat. Unlike formal communication, informal communication cannot be controlled and established as it comes naturally.

Internal and external communication. Internal communication refers to communication between company members that happens via emails, phone calls, chats, and in the office. External communication happens when an employee talks with an external member either by a written form of communication or by phone and video call. While internal communication can be both formal and informal, external communication is almost always formal with the use of clear and concise terminology.

Active and passive communication. Active communication almost always equals constructive dialogue. It implies that interlocutors ask questions, give suggestions and objections. Active communication is clear, concise, and focused on the results. Passive communication, on the contrary, usually means that someone is giving orders, instructions, and explanations that shouldn’t be questioned.

Horizontal, vertical and diagonal communication. When we say “horizontal communication”, we usually think about daily communication of people with the same level of seniority in the company: for instance communication between two CEOs. Diagonal, or cross-sector communication, is a mash of horizontal and vertical communication where the goal is to find the best solution that will drive the desired results such as a conversation where the CEO talks with the HR about employee retention strategy, for instance. Vertical communication happens between two or several people in the company with different levels of seniority and position such as communication between a CEO and a marketing manager and has a goal of advancing the company's development goals.

Direct and group communication. When we think about direct communication, we usually mean communication that’s based on reporting to a superior, to gain new insights. Group communication, however, usually refers to group meetings within members of the company where employees meet to discuss various topics. Most commonly, in group meetings, we present new projects and tasks and their main goal is to provide additional information and instructions.

Verbal and nonverbal communication. Verbal communication is a type of communication that happens when we use words to get our message across. Contrary to verbal communication, non-verbal one includes everything but the words - the tone of our voice, facial expressions, gestures, and so on. Both verbal and non-verbal communication is important, as they both provide information about our emotional state and thoughts, just on a different level. Given that the majority of our communication goes via non-verbal communication, communication among remote team members might be difficult at times. Luckily, there might be a way to bypass this problem. Studies show that we started to perceive emojis as real human reactions, and they might help us in bypassing the gap remote work has brought.

Examples of communication channels

Now, when we’ve seen all the types of communication there are, let’s go through the examples of communication channels we can use at work, see what informal channels of communication and formal communication channels are.

Face-to-face communication

Face-to-face communication can be considered one of the richest communication channels generally, that can be used in both formal and informal communication. The reason why face-to-face communication is one of the preferred channels of communication for many is the fact that we get a 360-overview of what somebody is telling us. We can see body language, facial expression, tone of voice, etc and understand the message in the best way.

Video conferencing

Sometimes face-to-face communication isn’t possible, either because you work in a remote setting, or you’re talking with a client or team member who’re miles apart. However, video conferencing is the second-best type of communication channel since we retain the ability to see facial expressions and tone of voice and understand our counterparts better.

Phone calls

Even though video conferencing can be considered as one of the best types of communication channels, it’s not always convenient. For instance, video calls depend on a stable internet connection which isn’t always possible, and usually people cannot talk to you on the go. Phone calls, on the other hand solve this problem quite easily, and they’re here to save the day when you need to attend to something urgently. Furthermore - they’re still a pretty reliable form of communication since you can hear the tone of voice of your counterparts and be more sure about the message they want to send across.


We use emails when we need to have a more formal type of communication that can be tracked. It’s great in cases we need to send a formal announcement in a structured manner.

Text messages

We would say that text messages aren’t among the best types of communication channels we can use t work. They ccan be distracting, since it’s pretty easy to engage in non-work-related conversations, and they increase the chance of leacking important information. On the other hand they can be quite handy when you need to call your coworker and check up on them when they’re late.

Instant messaging apps

Instant messaging platforms are one of the preferred types of communication channels these days, especially since many businesses operate on a remote basis and have clients scattered around globe. Instant messaging comes in handy when you need a quick information since it doesn’t require too much formality, it can be a great team bonding tool and used as a low-key project management tool, for non-demanding tasks.

Tips for communicating in the workplace

Now, after we went through all the types of workplace communication, let's see what are some ways we can communicate effectively at work.

Create a positive atmosphere.

Think about the environment of your online (or offline) space while communicating with your coworkers. In the case of online video calls, you should ensure your background is clean and neutral, to minimize distractions. Furthermore, make sure you have a meeting agenda you’ll follow to keep meetings effective and avoid attention slips. If you’re communicating via chat messages, make sure to be concise and give only relevant information. Also, the sound of a notification from your instant messaging app can be distracting for the person you’re talking to and in that case, you should be cautious to avoid sending disjointed messages. Instead, make sure to craft a message first and be efficient as possible, and be wary of other people involved in communication.

Use available tech to make communication easier.

Today we work with people from all around the world and communication isn’t so straightforward. You cannot just get up from your work desk to chat with your coworkers. They might be miles apart. Luckily, today we have a wide array of communication tools we can choose from for different types of communication and for different purposes. That said, to excel in communication in the workplace make sure to use all apps available such as Zoom, Slack, or MS Teams video call option.

Be direct and concise.

Vagueness is a common stepping stone in communication. The truth is, indirect and unclear communication can lead not only to poor performance and lower productivity, but it can also endanger employee morale and motivation.

That said, you need to practise being concise, clear and direct in communication, regardless of the output you're using to send your message across. Start from your objectives, and don't try to wrap your message using excess words. It's always better to send shorter but more meaningful messages.

Sometimes you need to show, instead of telling.

A proverb says that a picture is worth a million words. And sometimes it's true. You shouldn't limit your communication with your employees to words and words only. Sometimes the best thing you can do to explain the things you want is to use interactive and visual elements during your video call sessions such as charts, images, videos, and so on. Those elements enhance the speed of comprehension and are much preferred by people who're visual learners.

Make more meaningful meetings.

A great part of successful communication depends on choosing the appropriate channel for it. Good communicators choose their communication channels properly, and they don't hold meetings when they can write an email, and they don't hold meetings unless they have a good reason to do so.

If you feel like you need to hold a meeting with your team, make sure you make it as effective as possible. Make sure to make a meeting agenda, and hand it out to participants before the meeting starts. This will help them prepare for the meeting and avoid redundancy. Another thing to think about is people who should be invited to meetings. Think twice about the people you want in meetings and invite-only the ones who're directly concerned by the discussed topic to avoid others being burned out by the meeting and decrease productivity. Lastly, make sure to record meetings when possible, to allow others to go through it if they don't feel confident about remembering what's been said on it.

CONTINUE READING Instant Messaging for Business: An Ultimate Guide

Live chat allows us to get the information we need much faster, it’s generally a more engaging way of communication that suits the needs of those working in dynamic environments.

Well-organized teams are more productive