During the pandemic peak, remote work was a necessity. Today, remote work – either fully or within the hybrid model – is a commodity for which most employees would opt.
According to the Accenture findings, reported by Apollo Technical, employees’ and employers’ preferences for the hybrid are at a close tie – making the work model a win-win solution for both sides. Furthermore, 63% of high-revenue growth companies have embraced the hybrid model and, along with it, its many benefits, such as increased productivity, enhanced employee satisfaction, and improved mental health.
However, managing hybrid teams has proved challenging in certain aspects. Namely, between 20% and 30% of remote employees reported feeling less connected to their company’s management and noted the lack of communication, training, and tools required for efficient work.
On the other hand, 54% of organization managers are concerned about remote workers posing a security risk to the company’s confidential data.
Hybrid seems to be the future of work – but only if businesses manage to overcome common communication breakdowns and establish efficient methods for seamless sharing of information, ideas, and sentiments.
In this article, we will discuss different types of communication channels, and their pros and cons in the business setting. Moreover, we will share tips on how to choose the ideal channel for your company and outline some key points to consider when choosing the best communication tools for your hybrid workplace model.
What Are Communication Channels in Business?
As the name suggests, communication channels are ways through which people can transmit their messages to others. In a business setting, communication channels serve to share information, ask questions, or provide answers. They foster efficient and seamless information flow within the organization or between a company and a client.
Face-to-face communication, phone calls, emails, and instant messaging are the types of communication channels prevalent in companies.
A breakdown in any communication channel can be detrimental to work processes, customer service, and employee productivity. Conversely, establishing and maintaining straightforward and effective communication channels can yield benefits across the board – enhancing productivity, facilitating team decision-making, increasing employee satisfaction and loyalty, and fueling innovation.
Common Types of Hybrid Business Communication Channels
In the pre-Covid era, emails, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings were the common means of conducting internal and external company communication. The transition to fully remote or hybrid workplaces meant a steep rise in companies integrating video conferencing software and instant messaging tools into their day-to-day workflow.
Organizations that adopt the hybrid work model have the freedom to create a unique blend of communication channels that most suit their employees, clients, and managers.
In this section, we will cover some of the most standard communication channels for hybrid workplaces and examine their benefits and drawbacks.
The classic – for a reason.
Face-to-face communication is very effective as it allows participants to pick up on nonverbal cues and body language, facilitating a better understanding between interlocutors. Enabling this channel of communication can be a game-changer in the success of team projects, employee onboarding, or landing a new client.
On the flip side, communicating face-to-face is inconvenient for some people, especially those with anxiety or a disability preventing them from delivering their maximum in spoken exchanges.
Besides, large organizations could find it difficult to share important notices or make plans via face-to-face meetings.
There’s also the issue of no accountability, and low legal and reference value – very important in business-client relations where even the slightest inconsistency can cost someone lots of money, time, or reputation.
Lastly, listeners in face-to-face communication generally have poor information retention. You’ve probably been through it at least once – after an hour-long meeting on the next project tasks comes repeating everything said through emails or messages to those who don’t recall the meeting details.
The effectiveness and seamlessness of face-to-face conversation in the comfort of your sweatpants. Video conferencing was among the fastest growing industries during the pandemic, with Zoom sawing a 53% YoY revenue increase in 2021. The app was so predominant in everyday life that it even became a verb.
Video conferencing is the ideal communication channel for complex decision-making, performance reviews, or any other meetings dealing with delicate, internal company topics.
Externally, video conferencing is crucial when clients expect to see the people they pay face-to-face, e.g., during agency screenings and assessments, meet-the-team meetings, or when trying to mitigate a strained company-client relationship.
So, video conferencing provides all the pros of face-to-face meetings, within the comfort of remote work, and even turning the video off on a bad hair day. Moreover, this communication channel is less exhausting compared to in-person meetings, yet encourages personalization, productivity, and engagement.
Plus, video meetings save time and money, as they require no commuting – and they are good for the environment thanks to the cut on carbon emissions.
On the other hand, video conferencing sometimes lacks personal interactions, especially in meetings with multiple participants. There are also possible network connectivity issues that can halt the meeting’s progress. In addition, video conferencing tools provide debatable security of information, and create an issue regarding the organization of newly agreed details.
Even though one in three workers report feeling ’email fatigue’, email still remains the most popular communication channel in the business setting.
Perhaps the reason behind email’s unwaning popularity is the ability to trace and refer to a correspondence later on, as organizations usually back up all the emails that go through their company. Yet, backing everything up can cause quite a clutter – either on the server or your local device – which is why it is important to know the main types of backups and choose the best one for your business needs.
In addition, emails are simple and quick to use, and even those less tech-savvy can learn the basics of sending an email. Emails require writing succinctly and clearly – and thus are one of the greatest tests of communication skills.
Emails can seem a bit too much in day-to-day communication. However, when you are sending sensitive documents such as business plans or contracts, require a permanent record of communication, sharing status updates with team members, or communicating company-level updates – email should be your choice.
As for the downsides, we have already mentioned oversaturation with emails. However, we send and receive emails daily, even outside the business setting, and we all simply default to it. This email overload can also lead to another problem, which is missing important emails that get overlooked by the multitude of spam, promotion, and back-to-back emails.
Last but certainly not least – and we cannot specify whether it is a pro or a con, but – emails can be legally binding. It is not always the case, however, emails can become legally binding when parties limit their communication to emails alone to discuss contract details, offers, and cooperation terms.
Tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams have existed in the pre-hybrid workplace era – but remote work skyrocketed their popularity as a business communication channel.
Instant messaging (IM) is great for simple and direct contact among team members, between employees and managers, and for company-client communication.
IM tools have instant notifications of a received message, and users can type out a reply in seconds, establishing real-time communication essential for solving vital tasks.
The channel is great for quick project collaboration, confirming an info ad hoc, or when asking a colleague for their informal opinion. Such prompt communication encourages teammates to intercommunicate, thus increasing their levels of familiarity and teamwork. And all these benefits without having to double-check your grammar or mollify the message you wrote in irritation.
In addition, some IM platforms even allow file sharing and task creating within the messaging threads.
Still, instant messaging is far from the perfect hybrid communication channel. IM tools can get a little “noisy”, as instant groups appear, teammates, leave their comments, and discussions on various topics ensue. Of course, there’s always the option of turning the notifications off, but this brings about another problem of missing a vital or a time-sensitive message.
On a similar note, facilitating this informal communication between employees can blur the work-life boundary, as employees stray away from tasks into a conversation with a teammate, or continue to use the IM tools even after work to chat.
Phone calls are like the gold standard when it comes to communicating urgent issues, getting quick answers, and adding a personal touch to both internal and external organization communication – with teammates, clients, or prospects.
There’s also the option of leaving a voice message when the person called is unavailable. The feature is great when the called person’s working hours are over or they are on vacation, so there’s no disruption to the work-life balance.
However, phone calls can incur massive costs, especially if the calls are made across states or continents. So, companies that predict making lots of international calls could benefit from integrating a cloud phone system that enables making calls over the Internet.
How to Choose the Ideal Communication Channel for Your Hybrid Workplace?
First things first – there isn’t a single perfect communication channel for any business environment. As we have discussed above, even the most standard, universally-accepted channels of communication are flawed.
And, most likely, your organization’s internal and external communication will have its weaknesses – but it does not mean you should not persist in perfecting it.
Rare are businesses that rely solely on one channel. For the new blend of remote and in-house work, communicational channels employed will additionally emulate the hybrid nature of the unique office circumstances.
Thus, when determining communicational channel(s) for your hybrid working model, keep several things in mind.
First, think about the nature of your employees and their preferred communication channels. For example, managers generally do good in meetings and prefer quick phone calls to resolve burning issues. On the other hand, programmers and developers are less keen on face-to-face communication and commonly work best in quick, instant chat.
Besides the strong suits, think of the employees’ characteristics that could be negatively fostered by a particular communication channel.
Perhaps your organization employs foreigners who do not speak English or the local language fluently. Pushing them into an important internal or customer meeting could dishearten them and affect their reputation among colleagues or future clients.
Secondly, consider the types of information and materials your employees share among each other and with clients. If these are confidential, email is a sounder option. Conversely, for less strict data safety, your business could use instant messaging channels.
Moreover, look at the size and the organizational structure of your company. Are there strictly divided teams and sectors with assigned team leaders, or do you run more of a flat hierarchical structure with no middle management?
In the former business model, team leaders act as a bridge between clients, managers, and employees, assigning tasks, sharing project status, and communicating essential company information. In this case, your organization does not require bulk CC emails or Slack channels with dozens of participants. For the latter arrangement, a circular email, an IM group, or a video call can do the trick for solving any issue.
Wrapping up on the Hybrid Work Model Communication Channels
Choosing the channel of communication for your hybrid workplace is not an easy decision – but, nor is it final. Thus, whichever channel(s) you go for, allocate some time for testing their efficiency, productivity, and seamlessness.
See how well both employees and clients respond to a particular communication channel, and continually tweak your organization’s methodology to ensure maximum satisfaction across the board.
Sure, there will be some loopholes, misunderstandings, and time wasted along the way, but the bottom point is to notice the growth of your employees’ teamwork and performance, and for your clients to enjoy excellent customer service.
Finally, remember never to rely on only one communication channel as possible breakdowns could wreak havoc on your business processes.