Statistics on emoji use in internal communication

There are 3,633 standardized emojis — and the year 2022 will likely see 107 additions. According to Unicode, As many as 92% of the world’s internet population use emojis. 

Considering how many of us use online communication tools for work, it’s no surprise that emojis have penetrated our work lives as well — 77% of people used emojis at work in 2020.

In this article, we bring you the latest statistics on the use of emojis in internal communication.

The numbers offer insights into the advantages and disadvantages of emoji use at work, everyone’s favorite emojis, and those that are the most misunderstood.

The statistics also show how different generations feel about them and use them, as well as how employees’ and managers’ emoji usage differs.

Furthermore, you’ll learn about how people feel about work emails containing emojis, remote employees’ favorite emojis, and more.

Let’s dive in.

Statistics on emoji use

People like emojing at work ❤️

A decade ago, we might have felt apprehensive about using emojis at work. But today, they’re pretty much standard in team communication.

According to Adobe’s 2021 Global Emoji Trend Report, two-thirds of global emoji users (66%) like it when their colleagues use emojis in work communication.

These popular symbols seem to positively impact how we perceive our coworkers:

  • 71% of respondents agree workplace emoji use enhances colleagues’ likeability, and
  • 62% agree it boosts their credibility.

The report shows emojis are especially favored among younger workers — so much so that more than half of Gen Z employees would feel more satisfied in the workplace if their bosses used more emojis in internal communication.

Even though we love emojing at work, Adobe’s 2019 trend report indicates that we take some time to ease into it — 72% of the survey respondents stated they were at first hesitant to use emojis in the workplace.

However, it seems that this hesitation doesn’t last, as 61% of respondents admitted to regularly sprinkling emojis here and there in their messages.

In fact, some participants (19%), particularly men (24%, as opposed to 14% of women) tend to emoji with colleagues more often than with friends, family, and other non-work-related contacts.

According to the report, 70% of workplace emoji users share them via text messaging.

Emoji use in internal communication-min
Emoji use in internal communication

Advantages of using emojis at work 👍

The benefits of using emojis are undeniable — half of all Adobe 2021 survey respondents said using emojis had helped their mental health.

This is not surprising, as research shows the affective power of smileys is similar to that of real faces — meaning emojis were truly therapeutic in the pandemic isolation.

Here’s what the two above-mentioned Adobe survey respondents have agreed were the greatest advantages of using emojis:

  • 90% agree emojis help them express themselves.
  • 89% say emojis make communication across language barriers much easier.
  • 88% are more likely to empathize with a person if they use an emoji.
  • 86% like that emojis take up less character space.
  • 81% think those who use emojis are friendlier and more approachable.

When asked about work-specific advantages of emoji use, those surveyed agreed on the following:

  • 73% believe that emojis help employees quickly share ideas.
  • 63% believe emojis make the team decision-making process more efficient.
  • 51% believe emojis reduce the need for meetings and calls.

The further benefits of emoji use in the workplace were revealed by one Clutch survey:

  • 17% of employees agree that the biggest benefit of sharing emojis at work is that they can express a tone without words.
  • 14% find emojis helpful in expressing emotions virtually.
  • 11% agree emojis help cultivate informal work culture.
  • 7% like it that emojis allow them to respond quickly to messages.

Potential disadvantages of using emojis at work 👎

The disadvantages of emoji use are not as researched as its advantages — but the 2019 Adobe report took them into account.

Here are some general downsides of emoji use the respondents have identified, which you might experience at work as well:

  • 60% say emojis can read as impersonal and generic.
  • 59% have been sent an emoji that did not match the emotion the sender was trying to convey.
  • 57% think emojis can appear insincere and ingenuine.
  • 56% believe emojis could be more inclusive.
  • 53% have sent an emoji the other person misinterpreted or took out of context.
  • 35% have sent an emoji they later regretted sending.

Although emojis offer many benefits,  you should tread lightly when using them at work — to avoid any misunderstandings.

infographic 1

The most and least acceptable emojis in the workplace 🙅‍♀️

Emojis are not always appropriate at work, some of them quite obviously so (you wouldn’t send your boss the Middle Finger 🖕 or Eggplant 🍆).

However, there are also emojis that are often used in the workplace — but opinions on their appropriateness are split.

Here’s what the respondents of a Crossword-Solver survey thought were the most and least accepted emojis at work.

The 5 most acceptable emojis at work 🙂

The emojis the survey participants believe to be the most accepted at work include:

  1. The Thumbs Up 👍 — the most accepted emoji, with 71% voting in its favor
  2. The Grinning Face with Smiling Eyes 😄 — with 13.7% of respondents choosing it
  3. The Folded Hands 🙏 — with 11% of employees picking this emoji
  4. The Face with Tears of Joy 😂 — voted most acceptable by 8.6% of survey respondents
  5. Finally, there’s the Red Heart ❤️ — with 7.2% of respondents’ votes.

The 5 least acceptable emojis at work 🙃

It’s interesting to note that, out of the 5 emojis voted the most acceptable, 3 appear among those employees believed to be the least acceptable as well — probably because these emojis are generally among the most used ones.

Here’s a list of the emojis believed to be the least acceptable by employees:

  1. The Face Blowing a Kiss 😘 — the least appropriate emoji with 22.1% votes, probably because of its potential romantic or flirty connotations
  2. The Loudly Crying Face 😭 — with 13.7% of votes, likely due to the negative emotions it portrays
  3. The Red Heart ❤️ — with 10.5% of votes, another potentially romantically interpreted emoji.
  4. The Folded Hands 🙏 — with the same number of votes as the previous emoji (10.5%);
  5. Finally, the Grinning Face with Smiling Eyes 😄 — with 9.8% of respondents’ votes.

These numbers reflect the general sentiment among employees, but it’s worth mentioning that acceptance also depends on employees’ ages.

For example, while the Face with Tears of Joy 😂 has an approval rating of 8.6%, it is generally more favored by younger generations, with 1 in 5 Gen Zers voting it the most acceptable.

Likewise, higher percentages of Gen X and Boomers disapproved of the Folded Hands 🙏 and Grinning Face with Smiling Eyes 😄, helping them make it to the list of the least accepted emojis.

Emoji misconceptions at work 🤔

According to the Adobe 2021 report, 64% of Gen Z say they use emojis differently than their intended meaning. This way, new meanings emerge, but so do misunderstandings.

When asked which emojis they believed to be the most misunderstood in the workplace, the Crossword-Solver survey respondents were nowhere near reaching consensus.

Here’s how they voted:

  1. the Loudly Crying Face 😭 (20.1%)
  2. the Folded Hands 🙏 (16%)
  3. the Face Blowing a Kiss 😘 (14.1%)
  4. the Face with Tears of Joy 😂 (9.4%)
  5. and the Smiling Face with Heart-Eyes 😍 (7.9%).

And, here’s what different generations thought were the most misunderstood emojis:

  • The majority of Gen Xers — 1 in 4 — believed the Loudly Crying Face 😭 to be the most problematic.
  • 1 in 5 Millennials agreed with Gen X.
  • Gen Zers chose the Face with Tears of Joy 😂 (18%) as potentially most confusing.
  • Boomers thought the Folded Hands 🙏 caused the most misunderstandings (16.9%).

The most and least misunderstood emojis in the workplace 🥸

Those were employees’ guesses about the most confusing emojis in internal communication. However, they were not entirely right.

The respondents were presented with 10 most commonly used emojis and asked to identify their meaning. Here’s how successful employees actually were at interpreting different emojis:

  • The two crying emojis — Face with Tears of Joy 😂 (usually used to show something is funny) and Loudly Crying Face 😭 (signifying overwhelming sadness) — turned out to be correctly interpreted by the majority of the study participants — 89% and 76% respectively.
  • The next best-understood emoji is another crying variant, which tends to convey hysterical laughter, i.e. the Rolling on the Floor Laughing 🤣 (73%). It shares third place with the Smiling Face with Heart-Eyes 😍, typically used to indicate enthusiastic feelings of liking and appreciation for something.
  • The Grinning Face with Smiling Eyes 😄, which customarily stands for radiant happiness, was correctly interpreted by 60% of the participants. 55% understood the meaning of the Thumbs Up 👍 as signifying approval.
  • Among the most misunderstood emojis, all correctly interpreted by around half the respondents, we find the three emojis with a flirty side — Face Blowing a Kiss 😘 (54%), Red Heart ❤️ (53%), and Two Hearts 💕(50%). While they are usually associated with romantic feelings, in the work environment, they are commonly used to express friendliness, appreciation, and liking.
  • Finally, the title of the most misunderstood emoji at work goes to — the Folded Hands 🙏 (44%). While the meaning of this emoji is that of “please” and “thank you”, the majority of employees believed it stood for prayer.

Conclusion? To avoid confusion, feel free to use the bawlers and skip the flirts while chatting with colleagues in your business messaging app.

emoji statistics infographic 2

How do different generations perceive and use emojis in internal communication? 🧑👵

While Gen Z are digital natives proficient at emojing, Boomers have had to adjust to the trend gradually — and now, they have to adapt to it at work as well.

Do different generations like using emojis at work? 

How do they use them? 

Do emojis present a communication barrier between younger and older generations?

Let’s look at the numbers.

Do different generations think emoji use at work is appropriate? 🤨

Even though emojis have become the norm in internal communication, not everyone agrees they should have a place at the workplace.

According to a report by SurveyMonkey, there are significant differences in opinions among different generations, especially between young adults (aged 18–29) and older professionals (45+ years).

  • Almost half of the young professionals (46%) consider emojis work-appropriate, compared to only 28% of those who believe they’re inappropriate.
  • The prevailing sentiment (by 14%) among the older professionals is that emojis are not work-appropriate, some of them noting that “Emojis are the height of unprofessionalism.”

How do different generations use emojis at work? 👩‍💻

Unsurprisingly, the same report notes that younger generations are much more open to using emojis at work. As many as 53% of young adults mostly use emojis when they want to be funny or express how they feel about something.

Older professionals, on the other hand, are not so keen on expressing themselves through the popular icons, with only 15% of them believing emojis improve internal communication.

How do different generations perceive coworkers who share emojis? 🧐

Continuing the trend, younger generations perceive emoji users in the workplace in a positive light, whereas older professionals mostly take a judgmental stance toward them.

Among young adults:

  • 50% find emoji users more fun
  • 43% perceive them as more approachable
  • 35% see them as kinder

Only 17% of young professionals see emoji users at work as unprofessional.

Older professionals see emoji users at work in the following ways:

  • 29% perceive coworkers who use emojis as unprofessional
  • 36% see upper management emoji users as unprofessional
  • 22% agree emoji users appear ingenuine, annoying, or incompetent

Do different generations understand emojis at work? 🤷

As we’ve seen, due to the differences in communication styles, younger and older employees have different attitudes toward emojis in the workplace. 

Older employees are more resistant to them But, does that mean they are also more likely not to understand them?

According to the previously mentioned Clutch report — it does:

  • Nearly a quarter of 45+ survey respondents (22%) admitted to receiving an emoji at work they didn’t understand.
  • On the other hand, among the younger generations (18–34), only 12% of respondents encountered an emoji they didn’t understand at work.
emoji statistics infographic 3

How people use emojis at work 👔

Despite the generational differences, the Crossword-Solver survey has found that 3 in 4 respondents believe that sharing emojis has improved their communication in the workplace.

Let’s look at some statistics on how employees and managers use emojis in workplace communication.

Who do employees tend to use emojis with? 👥

All data on emoji use at work is unanimous on this one — employees tend to use emojis the most in communication with peers.

Let’s look at the numbers.

The Clutch survey has found that:

  • 31% of respondents use emojis the most in communication with non-manager coworkers
  • 15% of them use emojis in communication with managers
  • 8% even send an occasional smiley face to a client
  • 5% are brave enough to emoji with their CEO
  • only 5% use emojis with interns.

It seems the reluctance to use emojis at work rises with the distance between the ranks.

The findings by the Crossword-Solver survey add to the insight by showing that less than half of the respondents (45.7%) even felt comfortable using emojis with their higher-ups.

The results from the Adobe 2019 report are similar:

  • 36% of respondents only ever emoji with coworkers at the same level.
  • 13% of employees use emojis with everyone, regardless of their position.
  • 12% of them use it in internal communication in general.
  • 4% of respondents use emojis in external communication.

How do leaders use emojis in the workplace? 🕺

The coaching platform Cultivate has recently issued an intriguing report — an analysis based on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology of how leaders and others in the workplace communicate through emojis.

Here are the top 10 emojis used by leaders, as reported by Cultivate:

  1. The most commonly used emoji by far is the Thumbs Up 👍 with a share of 30%.
  2. The Red Heart ❤️ is in distant second place with 8.14% use.
  3. Leaders are also fond of using the Face with Tears of Joy 😂 (6.35%).
  4. When leaders want to rekindle the employees’ passion, they use the Fire 🔥 (4.57%).
  5. When they want to celebrate the success of their employees, leaders share the Party Popper 🎉 (4.37%).
  6. In another way to support their team, leaders praise their team using the Clapping Hands  👏 generously (3.95%).
  7. The use of the Rolling on the Floor Laughing 🤣 by leaders (3.34%) shows they tend to have a sense of humor.
  8. The Smiling Face with Heart-Eyes 😍 is another supportive emoji that makes it to the top 10 list (3.05%).
  9. When your boss hits you with the Hundred Points 💯 (2.38% use), you know you’ve done everything right.
  10. The last emoji on this list — the Raising Hands 🙌 (with a share of 1.79%) — is yet another proof that leaders are the best cheerleaders of their teams.

Leaders tend to use positive emojis abundantly, but what about the negative ones?

Here’s a comparison of emojis with positive and negative connotations leaders use the most.

Top 5 positive emojis used by leadersTop 5 negative emojis used by leaders
1. Thumbs Up 👍 (30%)1. Face with Medical Mask 😷 (0.27%)
2. Red Heart ❤️ (8.14%)2. Disappointed Face  😞 (0.21%)
3. Face with Tears of Joy 😂 (6.35%)3. Thumbs Down 👎 (0.10%)
4. Fire 🔥 (4.57%)4. Money Bag 💰 (0.09%)
5. Party Popper 🎉 (4.37%)5. Anguished Face 😧 (0.04%)

It’s evident that positive emojis greatly outnumber the negative ones.

Bear in mind that the Cultivate team applied their technology to a public, social-media-based database to calculate whether emojis were generally perceived as positive or negative.

Some emojis are intrinsically positive (e.g. the Red Heart ❤️) or negative (e.g. the Disappointed Face  😞). However, others that are essentially neutral (e.g. the Money Bag 💰), were assigned their affective qualities based on how people used them on social media.

How do managers and team members use emojis? 👩‍💼🧑‍💻👨‍💼

The Cultivate report also shows that people tend to stick to the same set of emojis at work. This might be because a workplace emoji standard tends to naturally emerge,  after a while.

According to the report, in a 180-day period:

  • 71.2% of respondents used fewer than 10 emojis, and
  • as many as 50.2% used fewer than 5 emojis.

But, does manager vs. employee emoji usage differ?

The Cultivate analysis finds that it does. 

The number one emoji used by managers seems to be the Thumbs Up 👍 (4.63%), whereas team members use the Check Mark ✔️ the most (1.83%).

Here’s a breakdown of the top manager vs. employee emojis.

Top 5 emojis used by managersTop 5 emojis used by employees
1. Thumb Up 👍 (4.63%)1. Check Mark ✔️ (1.83%)
2. Clapping Hands 👏 (1.80%)2. Red Heart ❤️ (1.35%)
3. Party Popper 🎉 (0.88%)3. Face with Tears of Joy 😂 (1.23%)
4. Slightly Smiling Face 🙂 (0.53%)4. Eyes 👀 (0.64%)
5. Smiling Face with Heart-Eyes 😍 (0.39%)5. Plus ➕ (0.54%)

Bear in mind, though, that these results are limited by the scope of the Cultivate’s analysis — they are based on the emoji usage data of four enterprises.

Emoji use in work emails 📧

In team chat apps, such as Pumble, sharing emojis and reacting with them is almost a given

But, what about email? Is it too formal for emojis?

The Clutch survey has revealed that one-third of employees use emojis in work emails. However, the remaining two-thirds (60%) believe that emoji use in work emails is unprofessional.

According to another survey on workplace communication, commissioned by the company Customer Thermometer, 1 in 5 of their American respondents (22.5%) regularly add emojis to their business emails.

The report also reveals that women prefer receiving work emails containing emojis (87.7% of them enjoy it), compared to men (73%). The reason is straightforward — women perceive this kind of email as friendlier.

Overall, it seems employees are beginning to warm up to emojis in work emails. 

The Crossword-Solver report reveals the general employee sentiment about them:

  • 19% of respondents perceive them as friendly.
  • 13.8% say they see emails with emojis as informal.
  • 9.2% are not keen on them and perceive them as unprofessional.
  • 9.1% say emojis can make work emails appear more personal.

Emojis in feedback at work 📋

Another interesting find by the Adobe 2019 research is that emojis can improve any kind of feedback at work.

When it comes to positive feedback, 74% of respondents agree emojis can make it sound more sincere. On the other hand, they can soften any negative feedback and make it easier to accept — according to more than half of the survey respondents (53%).

So don’t hesitate to add a smiley face and reinforce your good intention, especially when providing critical feedback to either a coworker, subordinate, or higher-up.

How do employees use emoji reactions? 🙌

Emoji reactions are becoming increasingly popular in the work environment. Employees and managers have found many uses for them, from showing support to eliciting feedback through emoji-based polls.

Emoji-based poll in Pumble
Emoji-based poll in Pumble (business messaging app)

Cultivate’s AI/ML technology has found the most common emoji responses to standard workplace messages. The most popular emoji reaction seems to be the Thumbs Up 👍, which is used the most for responding to 3 out of 4 analyzed types of messages.

Here’s how people react to different messages at work:

Ad-Hoc Scheduling RequestGiving Recognition
1. Thumbs Up 👍 (16.3%)1. Clapping Hands 👏 (6.11%)
2. OK Hand 👌 (1.31%)2. Party Popper 🎉 (4.34%)
3. Hot Beverage ☕ (1.29%)3. Fire 🔥( 2.83%)
4. Red Heart ❤️ (1.28%)4. Red Heart ❤️ (2.53%)
5. Smiling Face with Open Hands 🤗 (1.22%)5. Raising Hands 🙌 (2.43%)
Informing Work DoneExpressing Doubt
1. Thumbs Up 👍 (14.64%)1. Thumbs Up 👍 (9%)
2. Clapping Hands 👏 (3.26%)2. Clapping Hands 👏 (3.19%)
3. Rocket 🚀 (1.32%)3. Astonished Face 😲 (2.54%)
4. Fire 🔥 (1.27%)4. Weary Cat 🙀 (2.24%)
5. Folded Hands 🙏 (1.13%)5. Herb 🌿 (​1.59%)

The most popular emojis in remote work 🏠

The rise in remote and hybrid work models during the pandemic may have contributed to the growing popularity of emojis at work.

According to research by OnePoll, 31% of employees always use emojis in communication with colleagues.

The research has also revealed the most popular emojis in remote work environments:

  1. The Face with Tears of Joy 😂 was voted the most popular remote work emoji (42%).
  2. The Red Heart ❤️ takes second place (40%).
  3. The Thumbs Up 👍 comes third, with 34% of votes.
  4. Another crying emoji, the Rolling on the Floor Laughing 🤣, makes the list with 27% of votes.
  5. The Smiling Face with Heart-Eyes 😍is another heart-based emoji to find its place in the top 5, with 25% of votes.
emoji statistics infographic 4

What’s next for emojis in the workplace? 🔮

As emojis are becoming more popular and increasingly accepted in the workplace, we begin to wonder what their future holds.

According to Adobe’s global study, 83% of users around the world agree that we need more inclusive emojis. They feel like these icons don’t acknowledge the spectrum of cultures, age groups, ethnicities, races, and personal identifications to be able to represent different people and communities.

Thus, 78% of survey respondents believe more customization options could help people tailor emojis they feel best represent them. The customization options most in demand include cultural markers, different hairstyles, eye colors, and body types.

As the world demands more inclusive emojis, maybe customization will be the next big thing in sharing emojis at work.

Wrapping up: The future of workplace communication looks smiley

Emojis are slowly but surely becoming a workplace communication staple. Although some people are still struggling to understand and accept them (mostly the older generations), an upward trend in their use is noticeable.

So far, employees have mostly used emojis with colleagues — but these icons are becoming more prevalent in upward and downward communication as well (i.e. between employees and managers).

Moreover, emojis are even seeping into the more formal communication channels. Encountering them in work emails is no longer unusual.

It remains to be seen what the future of emojis in internal communication will look like, but one thing is certain — they’re here to stay.


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