From an emoji being named the Word of the Year (1) in 2015 by the Oxford Dictionary, to Chevrolet announcing a new car via a press release using only emojis, (2) it’s very clear that emojis have taken over the world.
There are endless debates about whether emojis should be used in the workplace. Some people love, them while others loathe them. However, the workplace is always changing. (3) The increased use of emojis in the workplace is simply a reaction to the changes we’ve seen over the past 20 years.
One of the trends which has dramatically changed the workplace is the rise of teleworking. Now, businesses across the globe have a 100% remote team. Remote working is a huge appeal for many employees (4) and businesses alike. As it should be; commute times are slashed and office costs are reduced to zero.
When we discuss the use of emojis in the workplace, are we considering this huge workforce that works remotely? Can you imagine never meeting any of your fellow colleagues? Interaction and communication are very different for remote teams. As such, emojis can be a powerful tool for remote workers to establish relationships, express their character and move beyond communicating simply via text.
Research About Emojis in the Workplace
The most recent research about using emojis in the workplace comes from the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science. (5) When meeting somebody in real life, a smile often shows warmth. However, a smiley is not the same as a smile. The research indicated that those who used smiley emojis did not convey feelings of warmth. Recipients of the smiley often noted that the use of the smiley or emoji demonstrated lower competence.
On the other hand, Microsoft and YouGov conducted a study asking millennials what they thought about using emojis in the workplace. (6) 70% of participants thought using emojis in the workplace was beneficial if you use them in the right way. This means using them with colleagues and peers, but not with a boss, client or customer. It was highlighted that when receiving positive feedback, emojis made them feel happy and proud.
Both pieces of information highlight the varying opinions about the use of emojis in the workplace. But, what about remote teams?
Remote Teams’ Use of Emojis
Most remote teams are using some form of communication channel, such as Slack (7) or Basecamp. (8) This is where colleagues communicate about both work and social activities.
When you lack that face-to-face communication, it can be difficult to convey feelings of joy or confusion. Posting a simple emoji which shows this reaction or emotion is a powerful tool.
There are different ways to use emojis as a remote team. Often, it can be added to a written phrase to emphasise the point; ‘great job’ followed by a thumbs up, clapping hands or even a dancing parrot. (9) It can also be added as a reaction or acknowledgement much like how social media integrates emojis and ‘like’ buttons. The work day can be busy, so if you see a message online, ‘reacting’ with an emoji is quick and the sender knows you’ve seen and noted it. Both of these uses of emojis are beneficial and, as noted in the study by Microsoft and YouGov, can increase a sense of happiness or pride.
The final use of emojis for remote teams are the status updates — a far cry from status updates on Facebook, Twitter or MSN. A status update in a virtual workplace can tell the team important information. Statuses such as ‘out sick’ or ‘in a meeting’ can help the rest of the team know when the employee is going to be online to contact.
There are multiple remote teams around the world who encourage and take full advantage of emojis (10) to build a closer and stronger remote team. When personal interaction is lacking, emojis can help to bring a team closer together to understand each other. They demonstrate emotions which would usually be emphasised by the tone of voice and facial expressions.
Emojis do have a time and a place in the workplace. What we can see from the research and from general opinion is that it’s all about context. Emailing a client using emojis is not appropriate. However, between colleagues, there is a much wider acceptance. For remote teams, emojis play an important role in everyday communication. With the use of emojis, the team is more cohesive and it can ease the passing of information and emotions.
About the author: Helen Anglin is a content marketer at Exposure Ninja, an eCommerce digital marketing company. Helen loves using emojis and thinks they can help to form and strengthen relationships.