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World Emoji Day and people’s changing communication habits

July 17, 2018

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This may be why users the world over have embraced emojis with such enthusiasm. If you’re guilty of punctuating your texts and instant messages with emojis, you’re not alone. According to a study by Swyft Media, 74 per cent of people in the US regularly use emojis in their communication, using an average of 96 emojis every day.

Since they were first invented in Japan in the 1990s, emojis have been ubiquitous in our written communication with friends, family and increasingly in the workplace. Emojis have gone beyond a millennial messaging fad and they’re considered by many the first language born of the digital age.

As companies adapt to attract the new generation of workers, they are exploring new methods of workplace communication such as Slack, Skype for Business, Skype Teams and Cisco WebEx Teams, which have emojis at the heart of their platforms. Emojis have changed the way that we communicate in our personal lives, but they are also central to how we build our work relationships and create a culture fitting of the millennial workforce.

The psychology of emojis

Emotional contagion and mimicry are core to how we show empathy and build relationships. Typically, online we don’t have the ability to have this interaction, but according to research, when we look at a smiling emoji online, it activates the same parts of our brain that it would if we were looking at a real human face. It can trigger a change in mood and we sometimes even alter our facial expressions to match the emotion of the emoji. The ability to develop deeper relationships with people who we don’t regularly meet with is especially valuable for individuals who work remotely, or work with colleagues who are situated in various corners of the globe.

There has long been a debate about the use of emojis in the workplace, but as a new generation of workers begin defining their company culture, we are seeing a shift away from the view that smiley emojis ‘imply incompetence’, for example.

There are also some defined benefits of diversifying your communication through emoji use, and evidence that emojis improve collaboration as early as the mid-90s. Researchers from the New Mexico State University conducted a study in 1996 in which the gave two groups of 12 a task to solve together, communicating via computers. One had the option to use emoticons, or emojis, the other was left with text only. The experiment found that 10 of the 12 participants chose to use emoticons when offered and overall that group enjoyed the process more than the non-emoticon team.

Many of the popular co-working tools on the market offer a range of emojis to enable employees to express themselves. Slack, for example, allows you to ‘react’ to posts by your colleagues with a huge range of emojis, and even gives you the capability to create and upload new emojis for your team, while Skype and Skype Teams also include a range of emojis.

To GIFinity and beyond

The way we communicate at work continues to evolve to adapt to our changing workplace behaviour. For example, our increased connectivity has led us to carrying our work and personal lives with us wherever we go through our mobile. Today, many workers maintain communication with their colleagues and clients through messaging applications such as WhatsApp and WeChat outside of the office.

As we look ahead, it will be interesting to see how other forms of colloquial media, such as GIFs and memes permeate the workplace and change our communication habits. But for now, if one thing is for certain it’s that the emoji continues to be king.

Read more about the impact of new media on businesses here.