Emojis in the workplace

by Lulu Trask – Jul 22, 2022

There are 3,633 emojis in the Unicode (a standard for consistent encoding and representation of text). You can probably learn a lot about how you’ve been feeling these past few days by going into Whatsapp and looking at your frequently used emojis. I’d imagine this guy 😓 is showing up for lots of us in the UK this week.

But what about using emojis in the workplace? 💻 It might be something you expect of a tech start-up filled with drinks trolleys 🍺 unlimited vacation ☀️ and ‘bring your dog to work’ days 🐶 but what about in the more stereotypical office (if that even exists nowadays)?

Workplace ‘digital HQ’ Slack surveyed their colleagues and found that while more than 70% used emojis to communicate with friends, just over 50% do with colleagues, and 30% would never send an emoji to their boss. We asked our LinkedIn network – who we recognise might not be quite as emoji-friendly as those at Slack – about using emojis at work. Interestingly, 64% of you use them, but only with colleagues, and the rest of you (bar 6% who admit they don’t even use them socially) are split evenly between using them with clients as well as colleagues, and thinking its wholly unprofessional (interestingly, those who think they’re wholly unprofessional are men). One argument for emoji fans is that the increasingly available ‘reacji’ feature (reaction to something with an emoji) makes workplace communication more efficient.

Why now? Perhaps what we lost in the pandemic is what we gained in emojis. A deep sentiment, I know 😂. The chit chat while making a coffee with your colleague from the accounts department, or walking into the building at the same time as your colleague who sits on the other side of the office from you, those days are pretty much gone – to the extent of the past anyway. When you’re emailing or messaging rather than talking face to face, emojis make chit chat more, well, chit chatty. They’re a chance to get our personality across, to get closer to something tangible 👩.

It would be remiss to think lockdown hasn’t had an impact. For the past few years, the lines between colleagues, clients and friends all became a bit more blurred. (When the pandemic first hit, Slack tracked a huge increase in the use of ❤️ as a way of colleagues showing support to each other – cute, right?) During the pandemic we found ourselves in our boss’ living room 🏡 waving to our colleagues’ kids 👶 and starting every client meeting with a genuinely serious conversation about the fluffiness of Rex’s ears 🐕. In this context, the use of 😃 in an email to a client doesn’t seem quite so strange.

There aren’t any rules on emojis in the workplace – yet. For some companies using emojis will be the status quo, while for others it’s an absolute no-no. Ask Facebook – sorry, I mean Meta – and the world of emojis is pretty much ancient history. They’re busy building the metaverse, where our avatars will interact with each other in a completely virtual environment. 

But for those companies not building our virtual future, there’s still a debate to be had. But before you press send, keep in mind this career-saving advice from Slack: “Never send 💩 to your boss or 🍆 to a colleague.”

Published Jul 22, 2022

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