Cartoon of four workers carrying emojis above their heads.
Image: © Nuthawut/

Half of workers surveyed say emojis speed up workplace communication

13 Jul 2022

More than half of respondents said that using emojis at work allows them to communicate with more nuance and fewer words.

According to a global survey of workers by Slack and Duolingo, there are distinctive rules when it comes to using emojis in the workplace.

While 55pc of the 9,400 hybrid office workers surveyed said that emoji use can speed up communication in the workplace, there are unwritten rules. Respondents said there are some no-nos when it comes to appropriate emojis for conversations with co-workers.

When messaging a boss, the top three off-limit emojis are the kiss mark (💋), the tongue (👅) and the poo (💩) emoji.

Respondents are three times as likely to “always” use emojis when messaging their co-workers compared with their boss (21pc v 7pc).

More than half of survey respondents (56pc) also said they won’t use a specific emoji unless the person they are messaging uses it first to show it’s acceptable to use in the workplace. The most off-limit emoji for co-workers was the eggplant (🍆).

Despite the potential perils associated with emojis, there are benefits to their use. As well as speeding up communication in the workplace, 58pc of employees surveyed said that using emojis at work allows them to communicate with more nuance and fewer words.

Two-thirds (67pc) said they felt closer and more bonded in a conversation when messaging someone who understands the emoji they use.

Olivia Grace, senior director of product management Slack, said emojis “let people convey a broad range of emotions efficiently, and in a way that words sometimes can’t”.

“As we continue to embrace hybrid work from digital HQs, emojis help people acknowledge one another, clarify intent and add a little colour, depth and fun to work.”

Slack and Duolingo commissioned the survey in honour of World Emoji Day, which falls on 17 July. Market research company OnePoll surveyed workers last month across the US, the UK, Canada, France, Japan, China, Singapore, India, Germany, South Korea and Australia.

The research found that, as well as unwritten rules, there can be different ways to interpret emojis depending on the country.

For example, respondents were split on whether or not the kissing face emoji (😘) emoji means ‘I love you’ in a platonic or romantic sense. In the global results, platonic received 29pc of the vote, while romantic received 28pc.

US respondents were slightly more likely to use it in a romantic way (34pc v 26pc), as were Indian respondents (52pc v 27pc). Japan was the opposite, however. Three in 10 Japanese respondents use the kissing face in a platonic sense, compared with 16pc who use it romantically.

“Emoji communication breakdowns happen for the same reasons as all language breakdowns,” said Hope Wilson, learning and curriculum manager at Duolingo,

“With virtual communication – especially work-related conversations over Slack – people from various countries and cultures, with different emoji styles and expectations, need emoji to help convey subtle meanings in real-time, often high-stakes, situations.”

There is also a generational divide when it comes to emoji use. Globally, younger generations were more likely to report that their recipient misunderstood an emoji they’d sent (31pc of Gen Z and 24pc of millennials).

Those surveyed were also more likely to send an emoji to someone their age or younger, while 28pc of respondents don’t care about age when it comes to their emoji use.

Emojis are becoming a bigger part of communications in work and outside of it. WhatsApp rolled out emoji reactions to messages in May, and company boss Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that people would soon be able to react to messages with any emoji of their choice, not just six selected ones.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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