Statistics on Emoji Use in Business Communication for 2023

According to the Unicode Consortium, the nonprofit organization devoted to ensuring the standardization of emoticons across different devices (among other things), as many as 92% of netizens use emojis. 

Considering how many of us use online communication tools for work, it’s no surprise that emojis have penetrated our professional lives as well. In fact, a recent Clutch study revealed that about 77% of people used emojis at work in the last 3 months of 2020.

These numbers, as well as the other emoji usage statistics we have compiled in this article, offer insights into:

  • The advantages and disadvantages of emoji use at work,
  • Everyone’s favorite emojis, and
  • Those that are the most misunderstood.

The stats we’ll discuss below also show how different generations use and feel about emojis, as well as how employees’ and managers’ emoji usage differs.

We’ll also get into how people feel about work emails containing emojis, how they use them to respond to work-related messages and more. Having said that, let’s dive in.

Statistics on Emoji Use in Business Communication - cover

How do people feel about the use of emojis in professional communication?

A decade ago, most people would have felt apprehensive about using emojis at work. But today, they’re an important aspect of team communication because they allow us to emote even in textual exchanges.

In fact, people’s preference for sending emojis to coworkers via text messaging software was already evident in Adobe’s 2019 Emoji Trend Report.

However, the most recent report from Adobe, the 2022 US Emoji Trend Report, was even more revealing.

A vast majority of survey respondents — 71%, to be precise — claimed to have used emojis in a work setting.

Furthermore, two-thirds of those surveyed (or, rather, 68%) claimed to like it when their colleagues use emojis in work communication. In fact, 63% of respondents stated they felt more connected to their team as well as their company when coworkers used emojis to communicate.

Moreover, emojis improved their perception of their coworkers, as:

  • 69% of respondents agreed workplace emoji use enhances peoples’ likeability (which is, admittedly, a lower number than the 71% that was reported in Adobe’s 2021 Global Emoji Trend Report), and
  • 59% claimed it boosts their credibility (again, slightly lower than the 62% reported in previous year’s report).

Adobe’s reports also indicate that emojis are especially favored among younger workers. The 2022 trend report showed that 78% of Gen Z survey respondents use emojis in internal communication.

The 2021 report issued for World Emoji Day also stated that more than half of Gen Z respondents claimed they would feel more satisfied in the workplace if their bosses used more emojis.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

Understanding the dynamics present in various types of business communication should help you see why emojis may be considered inappropriate. Check out this article to learn more:

Any initial hesitation doesn’t stop people from using emojis at work

Even though we love using emojis at work, Adobe’s 2019 report indicated that most people need time to ease into it. Namely, 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 survey respondents admitted to regularly sprinkling emojis into their messages.

Overall, 25% of the US trend report survey participants claimed to be using emojis more frequently with coworkers than with friends, family, and other non-work-related contacts.

In the 2019 report, that number was closer to 19% — and it was accompanied by an interesting gender breakdown, too.

Namely, 24% of male survey participants claimed to be using emojis more often with coworkers (than with other contacts). Conversely, only 14% of female respondents agreed with that statement.

Even though the data doesn’t tell us why that might be the case, it’s an interesting metric to know, nonetheless.

In any case, there are many ways to use emojis in workplace communication. For one, they can be used to direct the reader’s attention to relevant information, as seen in the example below.

Emoji use in internal communication
Emoji use in internal communication over Pumble, a business messaging app

Advantages of using emojis at work

The benefits of using emojis are undeniable — 60% of Adobe’s 2022 survey respondents said using emojis had helped their mental health. Unsurprising, seeing as research shows the affective power of emojis is similar to that of real faces.

But, what do Adobe’s survey participants think are the greatest advantages of using emojis? Well:

  • 92% say emojis make communication across language barriers much easier,
  • 91% agree emojis help them express themselves (the same percentage of US emoji users say that emojis can lighten the mood of a conversation),
  • 88% are more likely to empathize with a coworker if they use an emoji,
  • 83% like that emojis take up less character space,
  • 73% think those who use emojis are friendlier and more approachable, and
  • 50% say they’re more likely to respond to a message if it contains an emoji.

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

  • 79% believe emojis help employees quickly share ideas,
  • 62% believe emojis make the team decision-making process more efficient,
  • 58% believe that the use of emojis in business communication boosts their creativity,
  • 55% feel more receptive to new tasks when the request is accompanied by an emoji, and
  • 47% believe emojis reduce the need for meetings and calls.

An admittedly more limited Clutch survey that looked at the emoji habits of 500 US employees showed that:

  • 17% of employees agree the most significant benefit of sharing emojis at work is that they can express a message tone without words,
  • 14% found emojis helpful in expressing emotions virtually,
  • 11% agreed emojis help cultivate informal work culture, and
  • 7% of participants claimed emojis allow them to quickly respond to messages.
Pumble allows users to respond to workplace communication with emoji reactions
Pumble allows users to respond to workplace communication with emoji reactions

Emoji comprehension may prevent burnout in remote workers

The rise of remote and hybrid work models during the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly contributed to the growing popularity of emojis at work.

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say these symbols have helped many express themselves at a time when sharing our feelings in person was impossible.

As a result, emojis have become “an alternative to physical cues” for written communication.

Research into effective leadership in the digital age has shown that learning how to interpret and use emojis is a great way to:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of your employees (and coworkers),
  • Become a more empathetic leader,
  • Model appropriate emotional cues for different situations, as well as
  • Reinforce the company culture.

But, what are the measurable benefits of this?

Essentially, being able to monitor your remote team’s emotional well-being through the emojis they use might help you prevent employee burnout.

According to research conducted at the University of Michigan, leaders may be able to use emojis as their employees’ emotional proxies. Therefore, these symbols can be used to take the “emotional temperature” of a collective more effectively than perhaps even video calls.

Keeping track of remote workers’ mental conditions in this way may alleviate their stress — which would, in turn, result in a more positive work environment.

Potential disadvantages of using emojis at work

Unfortunately, the disadvantages of the use of emojis in communication aren’t as well-researched as its advantages.

Still, Adobe’s 2019 report did point out some general downsides of emoji usage, which you might experience at work as well. Of the 1,000 survey participants:

  • 60% said emojis can read as impersonal and generic,
  • 59% had been sent an emoji that did not match the emotion the sender was trying to convey,
  • 57% thought emojis can appear insincere and ingenuine,
  • 56% believed emojis could be more inclusive,
  • 53% had sent an emoji the other person misinterpreted or took out of context, and
  • 35% had 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.

Advantages and disadvantages of using emojis at work

The most and least acceptable emojis in the workplace

Remember: not all emojis are appropriate to use at work. Some of them are quite obviously improper — such as the Middle Finger 🖕 or Eggplant 🍆.

On the other hand, there are some that are often used in the workplace even though opinions on their suitability are split.

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

Top 5 most acceptable emojis at work

The emojis the survey participants deemed to be the most suitable for professional environments include the following:

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

Though we can’t claim to know the reasoning behind these results, we do have other data indicating why people might want to use emojis at work.

Namely, according to Adobe’s 2022 survey, people tend to use emojis to:

  • Express how they feel about a situation (which is a claim supported by 55% of survey respondents),
  • Quickly share approval or feedback (according to 51% of respondents),
  • Communicate positive or negative news (51% and 21%, respectively),
  • Build relationships with coworkers (as claimed by 44% of survey participants), and
  • Increase their chances of getting a response from their coworker (29% of respondents).

Knowing this, we can see how the positive emojis listed above may come into play in our professional exchanges.

The 5 least acceptable emojis at work

Notably, out of the 5 emojis voted the most acceptable, 3 also appeared among those employees believed to be the least acceptable. Presumably, this overlap exists because the emojis in question are so commonly used.

With that in mind, let’s see which emojis were considered to be the least acceptable by Crossword-Solver’s survey participants:

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

Though these numbers are meant to reflect the general sentiment among employees, it’s worth mentioning that an emoji’s palatability also depends on the message receivers’ ages.

For example, while the Face with Tears of Joy 😂 had 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 😄 emojis, ushering them to the list of the least accepted emojis.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

Emojis add a unique visual component to the communication models we use every day. To learn more about the various aspects of professional (and everyday) communication, check out this article:

Emoji misconceptions at work

According to the Adobe 2022 report, half of US emoji users use emojis differently than their intended meaning would allow.

Of that number, Gen Z emoji users were the most likely to stray from the intended usage of the emojis they sent. While 74% of Gen Z survey participants and 65% of Millennials claimed to use emojis to represent meanings other than the widely established ones, only 48% of Gen Xers and 25% of Boomers did the same.

But really, the meanings behind emojis are always changing — and being so open to interpretation means that misunderstandings are commonplace. According to Adobe’s survey, 47% of US emoji users have sent an emoji that was misinterpreted or taken out of context.

But, which emojis are the most likely to be misinterpreted? According to the Crossword-Solver survey participants, they are the following:

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

Some emojis are even misinterpreted more frequently by certain generations. For example, 1 in 4 Gen Xers and 1 in 5 Millennials believed the Loudly Crying Face 😭 to be the most problematic.

Meanwhile, Gen Zers chose the Face with Tears of Joy 😂 (18%) as the most confusing. Lastly, Boomers believed that the Folded Hands 🙏 had the most potential for causing misunderstandings (16.9%).

The most recent Adobe survey had a segment that dealt with general emoji literacy, so to speak, which showed that the younger generations tend to be the most up-to-date when it comes to understanding both the literal and more nuanced meanings behind emojis.

The most and least misunderstood emojis in the workplace

In addition to asking about which emojis employees believe are the most misunderstood ones, the Crossword-Solver survey makers also asked participants to identify the meanings of 10 commonly used emojis.

The results showed that most people were able to correctly identify the meanings behind certain emojis — at least, the most literal ones:

  • 89% of survey participants understood that the Face with Tears of Joy 😂 emoji usually signifies that something is funny,
  • 76% understood that the Loudly Crying Face 😭 signifies overwhelming sadness,
  • 73% understood that the Rolling on the Floor Laughing 🤣 and Smiling Face with Heart-Eyes 😍 emojis symbolize hysterical laughter and enthusiastic feelings of appreciation, respectively,
  • 60% of the participants were aware that the Grinning Face with Smiling Eyes 😄 emoji portrays happiness,
  • 55% understood the meaning of the Thumbs Up 👍 as signifying approval,
  • About half of the surveyed employees understood both the friendly and flirty connotations behind the Face Blowing a Kiss 😘 emoji (54%), the Red Heart ❤️ emoji (53%), and the Two Hearts 💕 emoji (50%), and only
  • 44% of employees knew that the Folded Hands 🙏 emoji means “please” and “thank you,” rather than signifying a call for prayer.

Meanwhile, Adobe’s most recent survey looked into the more nuanced meanings behind certain emojis. When asked to identify the meanings of particularly ambiguous emojis, the participants’ responses showed:

Thumbs Up
Pleading Eyes
Upside Down Smiley
Dancing Woman
Affirmative 57%Pleading 37%Acting silly 15%Dancing 44%
Well wishes 19%About to cry 16%Confused 15%Happy mood 16%
Good job 13%Questioning 11%Dying on the inside 9%Celebration 10%

Keep in mind, the table above only showcases the emojis that might be used in a professional context — such as over your company’s internal communication software.

Emojis at work

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

Most modern workplaces employ people of all ages — which has many benefits as well as potential hurdles. For one, different generations tend to have different communication patterns.

In this case, understanding the way different age groups use emojis can help us improve communication across generations.

Is there a difference in the ways younger and older generations understand emojis?

Well, as we all know, Gen Z are digital natives proficient at interpreting emojis.

Conversely, Boomers have had to adjust to the trend of using emojis more gradually. And now, they’re facing the challenge of incorporating symbolic language into their professional communication as well.

So, are emojis proving themselves to be a significant communication barrier between younger and older generations?

Let’s see what the numbers say.

Do different generations think emoji use at work is appropriate?

Even though emojis have become the norm in internal communication, not everyone agrees they belong in the workplace.

According to a report by SurveyMonkey (with an admittedly limited pool of 560 participants), 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 surveyed (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.”

Even though Adobe’s 2022 survey has shown that Gen Xers and Boomers alike do use emojis at work, even that review shows a marked difference between the younger and older generations’ emoji usage. When asked to answer a simple yes or no question pertaining to their emoji usage:

  • 78% of Gen Zers and Millennials claimed to have used emojis at work, whereas only
  • 69% of Gen Xers claimed the same, and only
  • 56% of Boomers did.

Adobe’s study also found that emoji usage has increased in the past 12 months, at least for:

  • 63% of Gen Zers,
  • 59% of Millennials,
  • 49% of Gen Xers, and
  • 37% of Boomers.

But, that also tells us that the emoji usage statistics of people who don’t fall into these numbers has either stayed the same or decreased in the last year.

With that in mind, we can see that Gen Xers and Boomers have a significant difference compared to Gen Z and even Millennial emoji users in the US. 

How do different generations use emojis at work?

Unsurprisingly, the SurveyMonkey report we mentioned earlier also noted 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.

Other sources — such as Adobe’s most recent emoji usage trend report — have also noted a generational divide in the way people use emojis at work.

To name an example, let’s look at the generational breakdown of one survey question in the report. When asked to select a reason for using emojis in the workplace, the following percent of each generation indicated that they do it to build relationships with their coworkers:

  • 50% of Gen Z,
  • 46% of Millennials,
  • 41% of Gen X, and
  • 37% of Boomers.

Predictably, Gen Z showed the highest percentage of agreement with the statement above. That means that the older generations either tend to use emojis primarily for other reasons — or not use them at all.

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.

SurveyMonkey reports that, among young adults:

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

In fact, only 17% of young professionals see emoji users at work as unprofessional.

But, what do older professionals have to say about the use of emojis in business communication? Well:

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

Adobe’s most recent survey saw a similar trend, noting that younger generations are more likely to believe that the use of emojis increases credibility, at a rate of:

  • 68% for Gen Zers,
  • 67% for Millennials,
  • 52% for Gen Xers, and
  • 46% for Boomers.

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 the use of emojis in the workplace. 

Older employees are more reluctant to use them — but, does that mean they are also more likely not to understand them?

According to one Clutch report, 22% of survey participants over the age of 45 have received an emoji they didn’t understand at work.

Conversely, only 12% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 had experienced a similar issue.

Emoji perception

How do people use emojis at work?

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

Adobe’s latest emoji trend report showed similar results. Remember, more than half of their survey respondents claimed to feel more connected to their team and company when coworkers used emojis to communicate with them.

However, Adobe also provided a generational breakdown of that particular statistic, which shows that:

  • 70% of Gen Zers agreed with the claim,
  • 71% of Millennials did the same, and
  • 60% of Gen Xers, whereas only
  • 49% of Boomers agreed. 

Still, that doesn’t tell us how people are using emojis in a professional setting. So, 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.

According to Adobe’s 2022 emoji trend report:

  • 24% of employees only use emojis in communication with their work friends, with another
  • 24% claiming to use emojis with all other employees that are on the same level, and
  • 19% reported using emojis with everyone, regardless of level, though
  • 3% limited their use of emojis to coworkers who are not senior staff, and
  • 1% claimed to only use them with junior colleagues.

Adobe also provided a generational breakdown of these emoji usage statistics, which showed that Boomers were especially loath to use emojis with everyone at work. That reluctance was particularly evident when taking into account the responses of Gen X, Millennial, and Gen Z survey participants.

Notably, these numbers seem lower than those recorded in Adobe’s 2019 report, which also analyzed the emoji usage of the US population. According to the older report:

  • 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.

Of course, these inconsistencies may be due to the wording used in the survey prompts in 2019 and 2022.

Generally, though, research seems to indicate that the reluctance to use emojis at work rises with the distance between the ranks.

And, for what it’s worth, the results of the Crossword-Solver survey we have previously cited are in line with the information provided by Adobe. After all, less than half of Crossword-Solver’s respondents (45.7%) felt comfortable using emojis with their higher-ups.

How do leaders use emojis in the workplace?

In June 2020, the coaching platform Cultivate published an analysis of how leaders use emojis with their teams.

The authors of the report used artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology to see which emojis were preferred among leaders and how their use of emojis differed from the way other employees used them.

According to the report by Cultivate, the top 10 emojis used by leaders were the:

  1. Thumbs Up 👍 (with 30% of those in leadership positions regularly using this emoji),
  2. Red Heart ❤️ (at 8.14%),
  3. Face with Tears of Joy 😂 (6.35%),
  4. Fire 🔥 (4.57%),
  5. Party Popper 🎉 (4.37%),
  6. Clapping Hands 👏 (3.95%),
  7. Rolling on the Floor Laughing 🤣 (3.34%),
  8. Smiling Face with Heart-Eyes 😍 (3.05%),
  9. Hundred Points 💯 (2.38% use), and
  10. Raising Hands 🙌 (with a share of 1.79%).

Generally, people in leadership positions seem to gravitate toward sending affirming and otherwise positive emojis when communicating with employees.

However, Cultivate’s analysis also uncovered the most commonly used emojis with more negative connotations, which included the:

  1. Face with Medical Mask 😷 (0.27%),
  2. Disappointed Face 😞 (0.21%),
  3. Thumbs Down 👎 (0.10%),
  4. Money Bag 💰 (0.09%), and 
  5. Anguished Face 😧 (0.04%).

Keep in mind that the Cultivate team used a large, public database to establish whether these individual emojis are 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.

Even so, it’s evident that positive emojis greatly outnumber negative ones in the average leader’s lexicon.

How do managers and team members use emojis?

According to the Cultivate report, 71.2% of the people whose communications were analyzed had used fewer than 10 emojis in the 6 months prior to the collection of the data, and 50.7% had used fewer than 5.

That tells us that people tend to stick to the same set of emojis when engaging in professional communication rather than seeking out unique symbols that may be more suitable for the individual exchange they’re having.

Now, that might be because a workplace emoji standard tends to naturally emerge after a while. Alternatively, people may simply be relying on the frequently used emojis listed in their company’s business messaging app, as seen below.

The emoji window in the team communication app Pumble
The emoji window in the team communication app Pumble

But, does the way managers use emojis differ from the way employees do?

The report from Cultivate claims that it does. 

Overall, the most popular emoji among managers was the Thumbs Up 👍 (4.63%), whereas team members preferred the Check Mark ✔️ (1.83%).

Here’s a breakdown of the most used emojis by managers and employees.

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%)

Again, bear in mind that these results are limited by the scope of Cultivate’s analysis. Namely, they are based on the emoji usage data of 4 enterprises.

Emoji use in work emails

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

But, what about other channels of communication? Is email too formal for emojis?

Well, according to the results of the 2021 Clutch survey we have previously mentioned, most people seem to think so. Reportedly, only one-third of employees even use emojis in work emails.

The remaining two-thirds (60%) believe that emoji use in work emails is unprofessional.

We saw similar claims coming out of the Crossword-Solver report, which showed that:

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

However, these claims contradicted previous research into emoji use in business commissioned by Customer Thermometer in 2019.

According to that survey, 22.5% of American survey respondents regularly add emojis to their business emails.

The report also indicated that women were more open to receiving work emails containing emojis than men. Namely, 87.7% of women deemed these emails friendlier, as opposed to 73% of men.

Overall, this report indicated that employees were beginning to warm up to the idea of using emojis in work emails.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

All things considered, perhaps email isn’t the best tool for engaging in internal communication. To learn more about why that is the case, and which tools you can use instead, check out this article:

Emojis in feedback at work

As we have previously established, many people feel that sending emojis is a good way to give feedback even in professional environments. According to Adobe’s most recent report, just over half of all survey respondents report having used emojis to quickly share approval or feedback.

To that end, Adobe’s reports have also indicated that emojis can improve any kind of professional feedback.

When it comes to positive feedback, 72% of Gen Z respondents agreed that emojis can make it sound more sincere. That claim held true across generations, as an even larger number of Millennials claimed the same at 73%, and a more modest 65% of Gen X and 55% of Boomers agreed.

On the other hand, emojis can also soften any negative feedback. According to Adobe’s 2019 report, 53% of respondents agree that emojis can make negative news or feedback easier to accept.

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

How do employees use emoji reactions?

Emoji reactions are becoming an increasingly popular feature of business messaging software. 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

Cultivate’s AI/ML technology has found the top 5 emojis used to respond to standard workplace messages.

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

As we have previously noted, Cultivate’s research relied on communication data gathered from 4 companies. Consequently, these results may simply show the standard emojis that are used to respond to these kinds of messages within those specific organizations.

However, we could still extract some universal insights from the report — such as the fact that the Thumbs Up 👍 emoji seems to reign supreme when it comes to responding to most kinds of business communication.

Emojis and people

FAQ about emoji

At this point, we are still left with a few questions we weren’t able to answer through the statistics on the use of emojis in communication we have compiled.

So, if you were also looking for more information about World Emoji Day or the most and least used emojis, you’ll find the answers below.

When is World Emoji Day?

The World Emoji Day always falls on July 17.

Can you guess why? 🤔💡👉📅

That’s right — it’s because the calendar emoji is somewhat famously flipped to that date.

This year, 2023, will be the 10th anniversary of this celebration. If you want to participate in the festivities, you can simply share your favorite emojis with your friends, family, and yes — even coworkers.

Alternatively, you can participate in the World Emoji Awards hosted by Emojipedia, which is the unofficial gauge of the most popular emojis around the world.

What is the most used emoji?

According to Adobe’s 2022 US Emoji Trend Report, the most popular emoji among US emoji users is the Face with Tears of Joy 😂 emoji.

However, that doesn’t tell us if that emoji was, in fact, the most used. For those numbers, we turn to Emojipedia’s analysis of Twitter emoji usage — which confirmed that the Face with Tears of Joy 😂 was among the most frequently used emojis on the platform in 2022.

As for what might be the most used emoji in a workplace environment, we can make an educated guess based on the statistics we showcased above. According to Cultivate’s research (and others), the Thumbs Up 👍 emoji may be the most used icon by leaders, managers, and employees alike.

What is the least used emoji?

As you can imagine, pointing out emojis that are the least used can be somewhat difficult. However, we still have some clues as to what might be the least used emoji.

According to the Unicode Consortium, flags 🏁🚩🏴‍☠️ are the least popular category of emojis even though there are at least 250 of them in the emoji catalog.

Other sources, such as Emojipedia’s Emojitracker bot, used to comb Twitter and showcase up-to-date most and least used emojis on the site.

As of right now, that site shows that the following symbol emoji 🔣 was the least used icon on Twitter before changes in the Twitter API made it impossible to track emoji usage on the platform.

Are emojis beneficial or destructive to communication?

Emojis can be both beneficial and detrimental to communication in different ways.

On the one hand, they can make communication simpler, if the conversation participants understand the intended meaning of the emojis that are being sent.

On the other hand, miscommunication is also possible, especially if people don’t have the same interpretation of the emojis they’re sending and receiving.

Furthermore, different generations can have different opinions as to whether emojis are an appropriate aspect of a conversation in the first place.

So, the answer to this question depends on many factors. 

Should emojis be used in business communication?

Once again, the answer to this question is a matter of perspective. However, the numbers we have discussed today show that emojis are a helpful tool for business communication as well as everyday interactions.

Besides, at this point, the question isn’t about whether emojis should be used in business communication, but how they should be used.

When in doubt, defer to the other participants of the conversation.

Use emojis only if they do. And, even then, limit yourself to the exact set of symbols they’re using — or at least stay in the same range of responses.

In other words, you don’t need to respond to the Smiling Face 🙂 emoji with the same one, but you could use another smiling face (😊, 😄, 😁) to mirror your interlocutor’s intent.

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For a more in-depth answer to this question, check out the following article:

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 from 2021, 83% of emoji 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.

The more recent, US-centric report from Adobe shows that 89% of Gen Z (as well as 86% of Millennials, 81% of Gen X, and 77% of Boomers) agree that emoji should continue to strive for more inclusive representation. These numbers roughly correspond with the 78% of Adobe’s global survey respondents who shared that belief.

Generally, 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 too.

But, what does Unicode have to say about all this?

Well, in a recent blog post, we learned that the Emoji Subcommittee of the Unicode Consortium has entered a new era when it comes to approving new emojis.

Rather than taking a “more is more” kind of approach, the ESC has been approving fewer emoji proposals every year.

The main reason for this shift in priorities is the very issue we’ve been discussing — inclusivity. However, rather than approving more symbols, Unicode claims that it is taking the time to introduce more skin tones into existing emojis.

In other words, more inclusive emojis may be closer to reality than we thought!

Boost collaboration by using emojis in Pumble 

If you were wondering about the future of emojis in the workplace, one thing is certain — they are here to stay. With tools like Pumble, a team communication app, you can leverage this trend to foster more engaging and expressive communication. 

With Pumble’s custom emoji feature, you have the freedom to create personalized emojis, perhaps based on internal jokes, or utilize the existing ones to:

  • React to others’ messages, 
  • Highlight crucial messages and capture attention,
  • Facilitate agreements and arrangements, or 
  • Indicate your availability status to colleagues. 

All in all, embracing emojis as part of business communication can enhance collaboration, strengthen relationships, and contribute to a more connected workplace culture. 

Ready to enhance your team communication with emojis? Sign up for Pumble now!


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