How managers and teams use emojis at work

Emojis are helping to easily convey emotion and personality over Slack, with the Thumbs Up, Heart, and Laughing Face as the most popular, Cultivate found.

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Emojis have become a quick, easy way to convey emotion and personality via Slack, a Cultivate report found. While emojis used to be associated with texting between teens, the fun symbols have become a staple in communication between colleagues, with some of the most popular emojis being the Thumbs Up (30%), Heart (8%), and Laughing Face (6%). 

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"Emojis are now ubiquitous in the workplace. Our data set included six months' worth of Slack messages from four different companies and in that time, people at those companies sent over 100,000 emojis!" said Andy Horng, co-founder at Cultivate.

The emoji usage at work report used artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to sift through all of that data, determining the most popular emojis for managers and teams. 

Emoji use has undoubtedly grown over the years and prove especially useful with the new work from home standards implemented as a result of the coronaviru pandemic, Horng said. 

"Two factors contribute to this growth. First, the popularity of business-focused chat services like Slack or Teams make it easy to use emojis as quick, low-effort responses (more communicative than radio silence, yet requiring much lower cognitive load than composing a message)," Horng said. 

"Second, as more employees work remotely they have to rely on digital communications over face-to-face conversations. Emojis can help add some emotional expression and personality to these digital conversations," he added. 

Most popular emojis 

The report identified the following 10 most commonly used emojis: 

  1. Thumbs Up (30%)
  2. Heart (8%)
  3. Laughing Face (6%) 
  4. Fire (5%)
  5. Noisemaker (4%)
  6. Clap (4%)
  7. Rolling on the Floor Laughing Face (3%) 
  8. Heart Eyes Face (3%) 
  9. 100 Sign (2%) 
  10. Praise Hands (2%) 

Here are the most common positive emojis: 

  1. Thumbs Up (30%)
  2. Heart (8%)
  3. Laughing Face (6%) 
  4. Fire (5%)
  5. Noisemaker (4%)

And the most common negative emojis: 

  1. Face with Mask (0.3%) 
  2. Disappointed Face (0.2%)
  3. Thumbs Down (0.1%)
  4. Money Bag (0.09%)
  5. Shocked Face (0.04%)

Most people tend to stick with the same emojis, the report found. The majority (71%) of users in Cultivate's data set used fewer than 10 emojis in the last 180 days, while slightly more than half (51%) used fewer than five emojis in the same time frame.

"We found that the top five emojis used by managers were completely different than the top five used by their team members. It appears that managers tend to use emojis to express positivity and encouragement, like the Thumbs Up, Clap or Noisemaker, while team members and individual contributors tend to use emojis to express acknowledgement, like the Checkmark or Eyes," Horng said.

"While we don't have data to explain why this difference exists, these contrasting patterns of emoji usage seem intuitively in line with the expected roles of manager and individual contributors within an organization," Horng noted. 

The report also found that emojis are a quick way to acknowledge particular types of messages. For example, the top emojis for informing someone work has been done were the Thumbs Up  (14%) and Clap (3%). Overall, emojis help convey nonverbal information easily exchanged in person, Horng said.

"Lots of nonverbal information is exchanged in face-to-face conversations via intonation, volume, body language, facial expressions, etc. This information is easily lost in digital communication, increasing the likelihood of misunderstanding," Horng said. "Emojis can help bridge this gap by making digital communication seem friendlier and more emotive, which is important for a healthy employee experience while many people are working remotely." 

"They're also a useful shorthand to acknowledge that you saw an important message, give a team member recognition, or to show support for someone else's point," he said. 

For more, check out How IT teams have been challenged by the shift to remote working on TechRepublic. 

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