My most recent post on LinkedIn cross-posted here.
July 17, 🌎 World Emoji Day is coming up! It’s time to check out some new custom emoji about to be released! The 17th was chosen because that was the default date for the calendar icon on early versions of iOS.
What started as a simple form of expression in our 💬 messaging apps, emoji has now become a cultural phenomenon. Remote and hybrid work has made emoji a critical component of workplace culture that manifests in nearly every work communication and collaboration tool.
Slack recently unveiled a major emoji and effects upgrade to their Huddles feature; WhatsApp announced support for all emojis as reactions; Google Docs launched emoji support; and even Linkedin announced a new LinkedIn Funny reaction (shown below) which they describe as a way to “express that the post made you laugh, felt humorous, or offered light-hearted fun in a professional context.” Some of you may even try it on this post 🙂
So how did emoji get started and find their way into our daily work?
Emoji is the aggregation of two Japanese words. ‘E’ means picture and ‘moji’ means character so emoji translates to picture-character.
Not surprisingly, it turns out the earliest emoji were created using punctuation to make facial expressions such as the smiley and the shrug ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ in the 1980s. These symbols were sufficient for text-based chat but emoji, as we know it today, really got started in the 90s! Take a look at this picture 🖼️:
Yes, these are the first emoji made by Softbank in Japan in ‘97 for their cellular network and then Docomo followed with this in ‘99.
But the real🪜step-up wasn’t until late 2009 with formal Unicode support. Apple and other companies added emoji support to their products for the 🇯🇵 Japanese market and users got wind and wanted to bring it into the 🇺🇸 US. Soon, emoji was incorporated into the iPhone keyboard and usage 🚀 skyrocketed.
Now we have emojis for different skin tones, different events, pop culture, 🎶 music, and more.
Why do people love emoji?
Well, the research is pretty clear. Emoji are ambiguous. Some like the ease and speed of communicating with emoji. Others find emoji a quick way to express emotions. And, of course, emoji also provide a way to show humor and our own unique personalities.
Emoji is now part of our everyday life. In writing this up, I found Emoji Tracker which shows in real-time the usage of emoji across Twitter — it gives you just a little sense of just how frequently emoji is used as part of communication. Whatever it is, people ❤️ love their emoji.
Recognizing that emoji established a new channel for communication, social media companies like Facebook further innovated and made emoji a reaction with the “👍” button. In 2015, Facebook wanted to offer users more options and worked with sociologists to determine six “emoji reactions” to represent love, haha, yay, wow, sad, and angry for posts on their platform.
And then came Slack which brought the reaction into the workplace!
Emoji, welcome to the office
Open any digital workplace tool like Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Workspace, etc., and you’ll see that the ability to instantly react to team posted updates or messages via emoji is integral to the user experience.
The benefits of emoji in the workplace are more important than ever with remote work. They help with positive feedback, engagement, encouragement, and camaraderie no matter where teammates are working. They create fun and let us show our unique personalities. They serve as a way to contribute to collaboration without distracting the flow of conversation. They save valuable ⏱️ response time in many instances; and much more.
Beyond using emoji as just reactions to comments., they can also be used as a way to share our presence — to indicate our 💻 availability or ⛔ not in the digital workspace. The right emoji can express yourself in a way that you could previously only achieve working side-by-side.
A number of organizations and team members have actually created emoji templates for common activities in their workplace. At Divvy, for example, a team member shared their template used for status in Slack:
These aren’t isolated examples. Emoji culture has become a critical part of the People Operations playbook and a must-have in the future of work. Whether prescribed or organically adopted, it should be promoted. 📊 Stats from a recent Slack survey and Adobe survey show that communicating with emoji and GIFs instead of workplace jargon has resulted in:
👋 66% feel more authentic. 🙌 78% say it made work feel more flexible, friendly, and inclusive. 🤗 88% are more likely to feel empathetic. 👏🏾 70% feel inclusive emoji, such as those that reflect different skin tones, can spark positive conversations.
And as an FYI, topping the list of favorite emoji is 😂, followed by 👍🏽 in second place and a ❤️ heart in third place. And of course, we know, emoji are just simply fun!
PSA: You think I’m going to write up a post and not talk about workplace emoji and Pulse 🙂 We solve for emoji culture in status.
If your organization has not codified emoji culture, now is the time. It’ll improve your employee 😀 happiness scores and introduce some ✨ spice into your digital workspace. And if you’re looking for some inspiration, see some examples at Pulse of all the cool emoji people are using at the office!
Happy 🎉 World Emoji Day!