Here’s why emoji are becoming huge in the workplace 🧑‍💻 (and beyond) 👀

Women working on laptop with emoji coming off the screen.

Thanks to hybrid work, team communication is exploding on digital channels: In many cases, we now email, text, and message our colleagues more than we meet face-to-face. Spurred by increasingly text-based communications, many workers — particularly younger ones — are using emoji to build connections and more completely express themselves in the workplace. Adobe’s recent Future of Creativity: 2022 U.S. Emoji Trend Report reveals that 70 percent of U.S. emoji users now use emoji at work, with more than half (53 percent) saying they’ve increased their emoji use at work over the past year.

In this article

  • An Emoji is worth a thousand words
  • Emoji for emotional intelligence
  • Emoji as a creative outlet
  • The future of emoji

What are the forces driving this growth in emoji usage at work? And does increased emoji adoption in the workplace indicate any trends outside of the office?

I sat down with Kamile Demir, Adobe computer scientist and representative on Unicode’s Emoji Subcommittee, to discuss our key takeaways from this year’s report findings.

An Emoji is worth a thousand words

Emoji pack a big punch: They compress ideas and allow us to express bigger thoughts in a small footprint. This has major implications for the workplace — our report found that U.S. emoji users feel that using emoji at work helps them quickly share ideas (79 percent), makes team decision-making more efficient (62 percent), and reduces the need for meetings and calls (47 percent).

“Emoji can do a lot of the heavy lifting when we’re trying to communicate quickly, especially in the workplace,” said Demir. “When things get busy, tacking on the right emoji to your message can go a long way to convey tone.”

Emoji for emotional intelligence

Emoji bring us together, whether we’re responding to a colleague’s promotion announcement, a departure, or a dog photo. Just as we rely on physical cues when we’re face to face, emoji fill this gap in our digital world, reducing misinterpretation or misunderstanding. Indeed, according to our report, 63 percent of U.S. emoji users feel more connected to both their colleagues and their companies when their co-workers use emoji to communicate. Most U.S. emoji users like when people use emoji at work (68 percent), and feel they positively impact both likability (69 percent) and credibility (59 percent).

"Language can be very abstract, especially when we’re communicating digitally,” Demir explained. “Humans respond more emotionally to imagery, which is why emoji are so beneficial. They help us connect more deeply to the feeling behind the messages we’re reading, therefore fostering more empathy and understanding.”

Managers may also benefit from using emoji: More than half of U.S. emoji users feel more receptive to new tasks when emoji accompany a request (55 percent), and 7 in 10 U.S. emoji users agree that using emoji at work helps build better relationships with new hires.

Emoji as a creative outlet

Many people take for granted the inherently creative process of combing through an emoji list to select the right one. In that moment, we aren’t just trying to capture our own emotions or reactions to a situation — we’re also working to minimize ambiguity for recipients.

Surveyed emoji users agree. Nearly 60 percent of respondents said that using emoji at work boosts their creativity and that of their work teams; nearly all (91 percent) agreed that emoji make it easier to express themselves.

“In short, emoji are just plain fun,” said Demir. “When we asked why people like to use emoji, ‘making conversation more fun’ was cited as the top reason by 68 percent of U.S. emoji users.”

The future of emoji

The ubiquity of emoji also gives them the potential to disrupt communication in new, interesting and unexpected ways beyond the workplace.

“It’s exciting to see the widespread use of emoji in the workplace,” Demir noted, “but I’m also eager to see the ways emoji will continue to be adopted in other areas of life. Our report found that more than half (57 percent) of U.S. emoji users are willing to use an emoji to purchase an item, such as takeout meals, clothing, or streaming services, which could transform digital purchasing in the future.”

The report also revealed that the majority of U.S. emoji users are open to creative emoji use, from confirming event attendance (68 percent) to sending and receiving payments (45 percent). Gen Z members and Millennials are even more ready to embrace using emoji in new ways, including visiting website URLs made from strings of emoji (51 percent of Gen Z and 52 percent of Millennials) or communicating with their doctors using emoji (52 percent of Gen Z and Millennials).

“It’s easy to dismiss or underestimate the potential of emoji because they are second nature for many of us now,” said Demir, “but they are incredibly effective communication tools that have become an inextricable part of our popular culture. And in an increasingly digital world, it’s clear that emoji should be embraced.”

For more information on the Adobe Future of Creativity: 2022 Emoji Trend Report, click here.