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Using Emojis in the Workplace
April 30, 2019
Using Emojis in the Workplace

Communication in the workplace is changing, it is more commonplace to use email, text or apps such as Asana or Slack to communicate with clients and colleagues. In fact, on average, employees spend a third of their time reading and answering emails. Traditionally, when sending emails for job-related purposes the goal should be to keep your messages as professional as possible. This includes avoiding grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. Where do emojis fit into this?

The Problem of Miscommunication When Using Emojis

The use of symbols in communication isn’t entirely new as going back in history symbols were used in drawings dated back thousands of years. In fact, the first known smiley face was discovered on a 400-year-old pot buried in Turkey. So you’d think by now we’d have figured out how to put emojis in emails in a way that’s generally understood! Yet, that is not the case.

The problem with emojis is that they are open to interpretation and the context in which they are used can make a huge difference. There are so many different emojis from smiley faces, kissing emojis, religious symbols or even poop. Putting any of these into an email can result in them being misinterpreted.

Yet, we also must remember that email does a poor job of conveying any emotion. Emojis can soften an email that may otherwise come across as blunt or angry. Emojis can be an easy way to lighten the tone of an email. Yet, does this raise the question of whether we have lost the ability to utilize our language in a way that can achieve the same results? For example, adding “when you have a minute”, to the end of a request it can immediately lighten the tone.

Finally, there’s the concern of seemingly harmless emojis such as a winking face of blowing a kiss to be interpreted as “evidence” for sexual harassment. Even the choice of skin tone within an emoji choice may be interpreted in the wrong way.

The Concern over Loss of Professionalism


Another concern over the use of emojis in the workplace is that they can easily make you look unprofessional. One survey found that 39% of senior managers agree that it’s unprofessional to use emojis in work-related communications.

Your audience is key here. If you have built a solid relationship with the person you are emailing, there is probably no harm in using an emojis. Yet when you are emailing senior management, external clients or people who you are not familiar with, you may want to be more cautious and avoid using emojis.

The issue isn’t really professionalism, as there is a varying idea of professionalism among different companies and industries.  Which brings us to our next point.

Company Culture & Emojis


Your company culture will likely determine how appropriate the use of emojis are in the workplace. Emojis can form a great way to build positive relationships between colleagues. Studies have shown that emotion is a core component of engagement and team building.

In addition, as studies have shown that people mentally respond the same way to a face emoji as they do to a human face. As a marketing tool, adding something as simple as a smiley face on the end of a message can increase the response rate by almost half on Instagram.

A younger more modern company culture such as in tech start-ups are already using other forms of communication such as Slack. These Instant Messenger communication platforms lend themselves well to the use of emojis. However, more traditional workplaces may choose to avoid emojis to maintain their traditional standard of professionalism.

Draft an Emoji Policy

In order to protect the company and employees from miscommunication, it is wise to establish an emoji policy. This way you can communicate clearly with all employees to ensure they are following company protocol. Your emoji policy should include the following:

  1. Which emojis are acceptable for use in the workplace and which are off limit
  2. Which forms of communication are emojis acceptable? I.e. Email, Marketing materials
  3. Do you allow emojis on social media?
  4. Should customer service use emojis and if so, where are they acceptable
  5. Are emojis acceptable as substitutions for words? If so, where and when?

Once you have a policy in place, it needs to be sent to all members of staff and signed to show that they have read and understood.

Essential HR understand that having legislative-compliant as well as easy to understand policies can be a large task. We’re here to help and can provide employee policies to meet your individual requirements. Contact us today for a no-obligation quote.

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