How professionals are using emojis in the inbox

by Denise Chan

emojisThere’s no denying it. Emojis bring to text the nuances of face-to-face communication that would otherwise go undetected or misinterpreted. You use them to write with subtle sarcasm or soften what would otherwise sound like a curt message. Overslept and missed your deadline? Use the cold sweat emoji. Cele­­brat­­ing a huge win like a product launch with your remote team? Try the clapping hands emoji.

We figured many of your Slack channels, text messages and Twitter feeds might look like this, but what about the more traditional channel of workplace communication? Curi­­ous to see how these icons have been adapted into the work inbox, we asked 500 professionals across the U.S. about how they use emojis when emailing teammates. We were quite surprised by our findings.

Appeals to women

Above all else, the biggest split in usage was between genders. 50% of women said they are more likely to send an email with emojis after receiving one first. While men were more likely to say that it’s never appropriate to include an emoji in work-related email.

We decided to do some secondary research of our own and it seems that science hints at this as well. Studies show that males process less of the bonding chemical oxytocin than females. This hints that women more readily build close relationships in the workplace. Also, females tend to have verbal centers on both sides of the brain, where males are likely to only have one on the left side of the brain. This might be why we also found a significant amount of women responded they were more likely to use emojis to communicate emotional tone sometimes.

What about millennials?

For how much time millennials are spending on their phones—14.5 hours a week—Gen Y doesn’t use emojis in work email as much we’d expect. After all, beyond consumer brands catching on with the trend, we’ve seen major institutions shifting their strategy to speak to millennials through visually driven mediums. For example, the White House recently released  an emoji-heavy re­­port. Younger tech users are fluent in emoji and some are going as far as to suggest that it’s the start of a new language.

With all this buzz, we’d think millennials seamlessly carry this habit over to work emails, right? Not quite what we saw. While millennials are more likely than their older counterparts to receive work emails with emojis, half of them also shared that they are only more likely to send an email with emojis after receiving one first.

As for the rest of us …

All in all, the rest of us just aren’t sold on using emojis in work email. An overwhelming 88% of respondents shared that they feel work emails are less credible when they contain emojis. This was surprisingly a pretty evenly shared sentiment across all industries.

Our advice for using emojis? Don’t be afraid to test the waters. Emojis can have great value in the workplace once we’re able to establish a fair balance that’s credible yet personal.


Denise Chan is Content Marketing Manager at Mailjet (