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How to use emojis in the workplace considerately and effectively

Woman holding star eyes and shocked emoji

Use these tips to think about when to take a chance on emojis and how to do it effectively

Emojis have become a ubiquitous part of our everyday communication, but they can be a bit tricky to use in the workplace. Yes, they can add a touch of personality and fun to both formal and informal messages, making the writer – or the company itself – seem more approachable and relatable. But it’s also true that they can be seen as unprofessional or even childish, depending on your company culture, and can reduce accessibility and clarity in your messaging if used improperly. 

Even if your workplace has been relatively emoji-free in the past, there are a few reasons why you might consider using them anyway.

  • Emojis can help you build relationships. Coming across as more approachable and relatable can be helpful when you’re trying to build and strengthen relationships with colleagues or clients.
  • Emojis can make your messages more fun and engaging. A touch of personality and fun in your messages, whether personal or meant for a wider audience, can make them more engaging and enjoyable to read.
  • Emojis can help to clarify meaning. Sometimes, it can be difficult to convey your meaning through text alone. Emojis can help to clarify your meaning – especially emotional meaning – and make your messages more understandable.

While these are all valid reasons to use emojis, there are caveats and important considerations.

Tips and guidelines for using emojis considerately in the workplace

Read the room. 

Before you hit send, take a moment to think about your audience and the context of your message. If you’re writing to a client or a senior colleague, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution and avoid emojis altogether. However, if you’re sending a message to a close colleague or friend, emojis can be a great way to add a bit of personality and levity.

Use sparingly. 

Just like any other form of punctuation, emojis can be overused. If you find yourself using them in every sentence, it’s time to take a step back and reassess. A few well-placed emojis can go a long way, but too many can make you seem thoughtless or erratic.

Be mindful of the meaning. 

Some emojis may seem universally understood, but they can have different meanings depending on the context–or even the age of the receiver. Take the upside down smiley face, for example (🙃). In an informal poll, Pivot employees of different generational groups said it conveyed anything from lighthearted frustration, annoyance, a crazy day, a silly response, or an innocent mistake. One said they had no idea what it meant. The main point: Make sure audience and context are your first consideration.

Consider accessibility.

Wondering why emojis aren’t plastered all over this blog post about emojis? While they are a fun form of expression, emojis can limit the accessibility of your communications. 

According to the CDC, 26% of the U.S. population has some form of disability. Individuals who use screen readers will have emojis interpreted to them through their built-in alternative text, which may vary depending on platform, device or browser. Here are a few alt text examples from Emojipedia

👏🏻 = Clapping hands: light skin tone

🤩 = Starstruck

💥 = Collision

😥 = Sad but relieved face

Next time you use emojis, keep accessibility in mind so their meaning is easily understood by all. 

Be mindful of emoji usage to make team communications engaging and appropriate

Emojis are a fun tool to make team communications feel personal and engaging, but they can also isolate individuals for a variety of reasons. Take the time to consider if your emojis are adding meaning to your message, and to place them into your copy with consideration. 

Internal communication isn’t always rainbow and butterfly emojis. The consultants at Pivot Strategies are savvy at navigating the tricky questions and important details related to communications and change management. With years of experience across many different industries, we can help tighten your communication approach to add value and create effective messages that inform and engage in new ways. Learn more and connect with us.

About the Author

Jon HilgersSenior Communications Consultant

Jon joined Pivot with 25+ years of technology, operations and change management internal communications experience. Jon is a recognized storyteller who uses focused listening and a persistent curiosity to understand business needs and build communications that deliver results. He is skilled at translating esoteric or arcane language for general consumption, and he has specific experience communicating to drive behavior change. Jon has extensive experience in financial services and held a Series 7 certification while working in the industry.

Connect with Jon Hilgers on LinkedIn →

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