A woman in casual clothing is holding a large image of a smiling emoji above her face.
Image: © Prostock-studio/Stock.adobe.com

Should you use emojis in work emails?

10 Sep 2020

Are you someone who uses emojis in work emails? This infographic looks at how that could affect the way colleagues perceive you.

Emojis have become a staple of online communication in recent years. According to Statista, more than 700m emojis are estimated to be used every day in Facebook posts alone.

But should we use them in our emails and other work-related communications?

You might feel inclined to include a smiley face next time you’re writing up a work email, but a 2017 study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science suggested that it may not “increase perceptions of warmth” and could actually decrease perceptions of competence.

Meanwhile, a 2016 survey by OfficeTeam found mixed feelings towards emoji use among US professionals. Out of 300 respondents, 26pc said they use emojis in work emails “sparingly” and 33pc never use them at all.

To emoji or not to emoji?

More recently, ResumeLab asked 1,000 people to take part in a survey on this topic. It showed half of them sample emails that included emojis, and the other half were shown sample emails with no emojis. More than two-thirds (69pc) of those who were shown the emails without emojis said they appeared professional. But only 40pc who were shown the emoji-filled mails said they looked professional.

In particular, emojis were rated to be unprofessional in out-of-office communications and in messages regarding a serious subject matter.

However, professionalism isn’t the only aspect of work-related communication. Typically, emails between colleagues and stakeholders also need to be clear and carefully crafted to convey a particular tone and sentiment.

In terms of clarity, there was essentially no difference in how participants felt about the impact of using emojis. Of those who saw the emails with emojis, 79pc said the emails were clear, while 80pc felt the same way about the emails without emojis.

There was also little different in terms friendliness. In the survey, 64pc of those who saw the emails with emojis perceived them as friendly, but 58pc of those who saw the emoji-less emails rated them as friendly.

So while sending a thumbs-up emoji could affect perceptions of your professionalism, ResumeLab said that “using emojis in work-related email communication has minimal impact on the perception of a message’s sentiment, clarity, friendliness or honesty”.

Your best bet is to follow your own instincts – think carefully about who you’re communicating with and what the message relates to.

Infographic assessing whether or not to use emojis in work emails.

Click to enlarge. Infographic: ResumeLab

Infographic assessing the impact of emojis in work emails.

Click to enlarge. Infographic: ResumeLab

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Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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