Emojis are everywhere these days. Every app with an integrated chat function has them, any email client, and all social media platforms. We all use them in our daily digital communication. But are they acceptable in work-related communication?
No less than 77 percent of employees use emojis at work. Many agree that emojis transmit the tone of the message better than just words. Other reasons for using them in workplace communication are that they express emotions, help cultivate an informal work culture, or simply because it’s faster.
However, not everyone is happy to see a happy face 🙂 in business communication. To stop them from frowning 😕 you should read forward to understand how to properly use emojis at work.
The pros and cons of using emojis at work
Using emojis in the workplace may have positive results, but it can also come with some drawbacks. In a nutshell, these are some of the biggest pros and cons.
- Personal touch: emojis add a personal touch to digital communication. They help express empathy and emotions.
- Approaching: the use of emojis makes you seem less stiff and formal, sending a signal that you can be easily approached and talked to.
- Engagement: using emojis in marketing communication increases audience engagement.
- Expressiveness: emojis help express your feelings, being the non-verbal communication of the digital world.
- Effectiveness: using emojis to reply is faster than typing.
- Confusing: not everybody has the ability to interpret the meaning of emojis. For some people, especially the older generations, the use of emojis can be quite confusing.
- Unprofessional: depending on the profile of your company and your audience, the use of emojis in workplace communication can be considered unprofessional or less competent.
Overall, the pros and cons of using emojis at work depend a great deal on factors such as the relationship you have with your interlocutor, and their age.
Based on the work relationship
While 33 percent of employees use emojis in work emails, 60 percent see that as unprofessional. However, these numbers can go up and down depending on whom you are communicating with.
Chatting to your peers
When talking to your teammates, the use of emojis is the most relaxed. If used properly, they can contribute to creating a positive atmosphere. They can even contribute to building a sense of community among colleagues.
Using a team communication app, such as Hubgets, allows you to create informal topics, where you can chat with your teammates. The use of emojis in such informal virtual spaces is, of course, unrestricted. They are a form of digital non-verbal communication that allows you to express yourself more authentically.
Talking to your boss
Less than half (45.7 percent) of employees feel comfortable using emojis with their bosses. Many are afraid that using emojis when communicating with their managers would make them seem unprofessional or light-hearted.
Unless you have a personal relationship with your boss, take a conservative approach in your use of emojis.
To play it safe, only use emojis to express positive feelings. We all know that every boss loves it when people laugh at their jokes 🙂
Communicating with customers
Depending on the specifics of your job, using emojis when communicating with customers can be the most problematic. Simply consider that 60 percent of people think emojis are unprofessional. So, it’s debatable whether their use is advised in emails.
A remarkable exception is marketing, where most people have a positive attitude towards emojis. What’s more, emojis can actually improve the effectiveness of content marketing. In social media communication, the use of emojis leads to greater engagement.
Therefore, it all comes down to your company culture and your target audience. If your customers are mostly people born after 1980, the use of emojis could actually benefit your business. However, if you are dealing mostly with Gen X-ers and older customers, the use of emojis might be seen as unprofessional or confusing.
Different generations have different views and opinions about what is acceptable and what is not in terms of emoji use.
Over 70 percent of employees of all ages find the 👍 (thumbs up) emoji the most acceptable to use in work-related communication.
On the other hand, the lowest approval rate was given to the 😘 (face blowing kiss) emoji, with only 22.1 percent of employees finding it acceptable. But that’s about where the generational agreement ends. When it comes to everything else emoji-related, younger and more senior generations have very different approaches.
Gen Z and Millennials
Younger generations are more used to communicating using emojis. As with everything else, their written communication is quite casual, especially when compared to older generations.
Only 12 percent of Millennials and Gen Z-ers say they ever had trouble interpreting the meaning of an emoji. That might also be due to the fact that these generations grew up in the era of instant chats. They have used emoticons since a young age. To these generations, the use of emojis comes naturally.
However, Gen Z-ers reject the 😂 (face with tears of joy) emoji, which is one of the most popular among millennials. If you see one of your new co-workers using the 💀 (skull) or 😭 (loudly crying face) emojis in your team chat to express amusement, safely assume they are a Gen Z.
Gen X and Baby boomers
Gen X and baby boomers are the most likely to misunderstand the use of emojis. Of the employees over 45 years old, 22 percent admit that they had issues understanding an emoji they received from co-workers.
Baby boomers found the 🙏 (folded hands) emoji to be the most problematic. Some of them interpret it as a sign for prayer or clapping hands.
Therefore, when communicating with older professionals, it’s safer to keep it more traditional. Use simple smiley faces 🙂 and 👍 (thumbs up).
Emojis help when used the right way
While generally improving communication, the use of emojis can lead to miscommunication when they are not interpreted in the way they were meant. The most frequent lost in translation events occur between generations.
However, emojis can help you express your feelings in a more authentic way, building trust and a sense of community.
In the end, it all comes down to context–how formal your workplace is and who you are addressing. Make sure you adapt the way you use emojis to your context to avoid any misunderstandings.
When unsure if you should use emojis in work conversations, just mimic the behavior of your interlocutor 😉