12 tips for effective communication in the workplace

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Today, we’re in almost constant contact with our coworkers. You might not put a lot of thought into saying “hi” to your coworker, grabbing virtual coffee with a remote team member, or sending a gif of a cat wearing pajamas to your team—and that’s ok. Even though you’re communicating at work, there’s a difference between these types of messages and communication in the workplace.

Communication in the workplace refers to communication you do at work about work. Knowing when and how to effectively communicate at work can help you reduce miscommunication, increase team happiness, bolster collaboration, and foster trust. Teams that know how to communicate effectively about work are better prepared for difficult situations. But building good communication habits takes time and effort—and that’s where we come in. Here are 12 ways to take your workplace communication skills to the next level.

What does “workplace communication” mean?

Workplace communication is any type of communication you do at work about work. This includes things like communicating about individual tasks, sharing project status updates, or giving feedback to managers or employees. Knowing how to communicate in the workplace is a key part of effective collaboration—because if you can’t communicate clearly, then you risk miscommunication, confusion, or even unintentionally hurting someone’s feelings.

Communication in the workplace can happen face-to-face, in writing, over a video conferencing platform, or in a group meeting. It can also happen in real time or asynchronously, which happens when you’re communicating about work over email, with recorded video, or in a platform like a project management tool. Some examples of workplace communication include:

  • Team meetings
  • 1:1 feedback sessions
  • Receiving information
  • Communicating about project status or progress
  • Collaboration on cross-functional tasks
  • Nonverbal communication

What makes communication good?

Now that you know what type of communication can be included in workplace communication, how do you start getting better at it? There are a few key tenets of good communication that you can use no matter the type of communication it is. In particular, good communication:

  • Aims for clarity. Whether you’re sending a Slack message, drafting an email, or giving an off-the-cuff reply, aim to clearly communicate your message.
  • Seeks to solve conflicts, not create them. The reason you’re communicating is to solve a problem or promote effective collaboration on a project or task. Good communication in the workplace can bring up blockers or provide feedback—but make sure the goal is to get to a better place than where you are now.
  • Goes both ways. Every instance of communication in the workplace is an exchange of information—even if one person is only communicating nonverbally.

Read: How to give effective project feedback in 7 steps

The benefits of open workplace communication

Clear, effective workplace communication can:

More types of workplace communication

Most discussions about communication in the workplace assume the “workplace” is in person. But there are a variety of ways to communicate across different locations—from global offices to remote teams. Most communication best practices still apply to any type of team, but there are a few additional considerations and best practices you can use to help team members truly connect.

Distributed teams

Distributed teams work across multiple national or global offices. These teams might span different time zones and languages, and each office will have its own culture and habits. Don’t expect each distributed team to communicate in the same way—in fact, one of the advantages of distributed teams is the variety of thought you’re exposed to by working with teammates from all over the world.

If you work on a distributed team, it’s critical to over-communicate so that team members in different time zones and offices stay in the loop. Make sure to document everything in a central source of truth that team members can access when they’re online, and look for a tool that updates in real-time so no one has to slow down due to information lag.

Keep in mind that time zones might affect how people come to a conversation. Try to schedule meetings when everyone is available, or offer recordings and notes if team members can’t make it. It’s also critical to double check that the right people are in the loop, and that they aren’t just being left out because they’re in a different office than the majority of your team.

The cherry on top of effective workplace communication

The last component of clear communication is having a central source of truth for all of your communication and work information. Using a centralized system like a work management tool can help you coordinate work across all levels of your team. Learn more about how work management makes project coordination and communication easier in our introduction to work management article.