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Do Emojis Have a Place in Work Communications?

Do Emojis Have a Place in Work Communications?
Credit: Premium Vector/Shutterstock

While using emojis in personal emails or text messages is a common practice for many people, using them in work communications should be done much more sparingly, new research shows.

In a study from the staffing firm OfficeTeam, only a small percentage of bosses said that regularly using emojis in work emails or texts is a good idea. Specifically, just 21 percent of the senior managers surveyed said they didn't have a problem with their employees using emoticons whenever they wanted.

Most of those in charge said they would prefer that emojis be left out of work communications altogether, or at the very least, used only in certain situations. Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed said using an emoji in any instance in a work communication is unprofessional, while 40 percent said using them is OK depending on the situation.

The majority of workers admitted to inserting a smiley face or other emoticon in work communications at least some of the time. The study discovered that 19 percent of employees use the symbols all the time, because these icons help show the feelings behind the message, 22 percent use emojiis sometimes but limit usage to casual exchanges with co-workers and not formal communications with higher-ups, and 26 percent use the symbols sparingly, thinking they don't appear very professional. [See Related Story: Email Etiquette 101: The Do's and Don’ts of Professional Emails]

One-third of the employees surveyed said they never use emojiis and prefer to express themselves in their writing instead. 

"Emojis and emoticons are showing up just about everywhere, but that doesn't mean they're always appropriate for the workplace," Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam, said in a statement. "While using these symbols can help employees convey their feelings and personalities in written communications, they can also be distracting and appear unprofessional."

To help employees, OfficeTeam offers five tips for when and how to use emojis and emoticons at work:

  1. Don't go overboard. You shouldn't be using emojis regularly. Using them all of the time could annoy others and muddle your message.
  2. Know your audience. Consider your company's corporate culture and your relationship with those with whom you are communicating. While including a thumbs-up icon in an email to work friend might be fine, doing so when sending messages to company leaders could easily be frowned upon.
  3. Assess the situation. Using emoticons when discussing serious issues can appear awkward or rude. It's best to leave emojis completely out of those types of communications.
  4. Know your emojis. Today, there are hundreds of different emojis and emoticons. If you are going to use one, be sure not only that you know what it means, but that the person receiving it will understand the message as well. The last thing you want is for an emoji to be taken the wrong way.
  5. Use your words. If you aren't 100 percent sure that using an emoji will get your point across, leave it out and focus on your words. Either write out what you want to say, or have an in-person or phone conversation to discuss the topic.

The study was based on surveys of more than 300 senior managers at U.S. companies that had 20 or more employees, and more than 350 U.S. workers employed in office environments.


Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.