How are Emojis Changing our Online Workplace Communication?

Do you know what the Oxford Dictionary 2015 Word of the Year is? For the first time ever I will have to show you, instead of tell you. The ‘word’ of the year is in fact an emoji:

According to Oxford Dictionaries, the “face with tears of joy” emoji was chosen because it is the ‘word’ that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015. This result represents a global preference toward this emoji, revealing that emojis- unlike certain words or phrases- are cross-cultural, a global desire to maintain empathy in a world where communication is increasingly done electronically.

Emoji’s bring tone back into electronic communications.
Most people know this to be true in their personal lives: sending expressions of friendliness, happiness, positivity (as well as negative emotions) via an ecosystem of emojis. This ecosystem has been curated to represent some of the most common facial expressions that we use to communicate every day to signal what emotion we are trying to convey when words are just not enough. 

This challenge only increases in the workplace where formality can disguise friendly tones and lead to confusion. Whether it’s through email or texting though, many workplaces depend on electronic means of communication because it is more agile and productive. However, with these types of messages there is a significant lack of human expression. The facial expressions of our coworkers allow us to deduce the emotions behind their words, it is primarily physical expression that allows us to recognize happiness or frustration. In Send-a book written about email etiquette- the authors write, “the biggest problem about all electronic communication is that it's toneless. In the absence of tone, people read negative tone into it.”

The issue of misidentified tone is often solved by using emojis, which is a large part of their rise to popularity for both personal and workplace messages. When using them intentionally (as opposed to sarcastically) we choose emojis to represent the tone in which we are hoping our message is read with. In this way emojis are best understood not as a replacement for words, but an extension of the way that we communicate online (tweet it)

It’s more than just Millennials that use emojis.
It is often generalized that it is the younger generations- Millennials in particular- that depend on emojis to communicate with each other but their use spreads far beyond just one generation. According to the Emoji Report, in which people of different age groups were asked how often they use emojis the results revealed, that just like modern workplaces, emoji use is cross-generational. 

Image via Emoji Report

Image via Emoji Report

It is clear that the demands of workplace communication are changing. Electronic communication is connecting employees from wherever they are: at work, traveling for work, out to dinner, at home. As the lines of work and home life have blurred, communication formality has also begun to change, which is a large part of why emojis have increased across the ages of end users. 

I asked some of the folks in the Lua office if they use emojis at work. The resounding answer was yes, everyday. So I wanted to take this a little farther, I asked them which ones they used and why. Here’s what I found, the most frequently used emojis in the Lua office are: 

With emojis, online communication is more human.
As you can see, they are all emojis that emit a positive tone, and the Lua employees that I polled said that is exactly why they used them. Tone, empathy, encouragement- these are the words my coworkers cited as their reasons for using emojis. Communication really is changing. In a world where our words can be sent from any corner of the world at any moment, emojis are providing the human expression that is otherwise missing. It makes working with others remotely more intentional, and it solves potential problems that arise from the misunderstanding of tone. Emojis allow our our online language to be more productive, and brings empathy back into the workplace. They may seem like trivial additions, but you include them for a reason, they make your online communication more “human”.  

Utilize emojis within Lua.
Whether you use emojis because they are quicker, easier, or signal the correct tone- chances are you use emojis at work. As the primary means of workplace communication shift from email to mobile messaging, here at Lua we want to make sure that you can message each other in real time as efficiently as you can and we know that emojis are a big part of any company’s online language. That’s why we’ve made sure that you can use emojis within the Lua app- from any of your mobile devices. So go ahead, send that “face with tears of joy” emoji after you close that last minute sales deal, the “happy face” when you need to schedule a last minute meeting, or for any other reason you need more than just your words. Today’s employees use a combination of words, pictures, files, emojis and more to get message across to their coworkers immediately and clearly, and with Lua you are empowered with all of these communication means.