Emojis are no longer the topic of debate they were a few years ago. We’re past the point of questioning whether or not you should use them, or whether they’re here to stay. Ninety-two percent of the world’s population uses emojis and more than 5 billion emojis are sent on Facebook Messenger each day (yes, billion with a “b”).
With that level of usage, it should come as no surprise that there’s a ton of content about how to use emojis in marketing. What is surprising is how little content exists about how emojis can benefit your communications internally at work.
These tiny little images are easy to use, easy to understand, and can often express thoughts and feelings far more quickly and efficiently than a paragraph. And most of all, they’re fun to use! All of this makes them a perfect tool for interactions among colleagues.
6 creative uses of emojis at work
Sharing confidence in deadlines
Apples. Bananas. Tomatoes. Other than being fruit (fun-ish fact: the tomato is both a fruit and a vegetable), these three emojis share one key quality: meaningful colors. If you see green, yellow, and red beside one another, most people immediately think of traffic lights. We’re trained from an early age to know that green means go and red means stop, while yellow is the weird middle child who means a little bit of both.
At Unito, we were looking for a quick way to share our confidence in project deadlines, specifically within Slack and Asana. Setting deadlines you’re not confident that you’ll meet can negatively impact the work of other people and other teams. But writing “I think we’ll have this done by August 30th, but we’re not sure, but we’re pretty sure” on tasks didn’t seem the right solution either. So we came up with the fruit method:
- A green apple emoji means a 100% locked-in deadline
- A yellow banana emoji means a tentative deadline
- A red tomato means a deadline that you will not be able to hit
Every deadline in Asana or Slack is accompanied by one of these emojis so everybody in the company knows whether or not they can work to that deadline in confidence. Projects usually move from tomato to banana to apple as teams make progress. And everybody knows that missing a green apple deadline is an absolute faux-pas.
Recognizing teammates for great work
A whopping 63% of employees feel as though they don’t get enough praise while 83% feel it’s better to give someone praise than a gift. Openly recognizing the achievements of your coworkers helps to create a positive work environment, and it really isn’t very hard to do.
The “clap” emoji is an easy way to show recognition in Slack or other internal work tools, as are the “thumbsup,” “tada,” or “raised_hands” emoji. Slack also supports custom emojis, meaning you can also get creative in how you use them to show recognition. At Unito, we use custom emojis of a right arm and a left arm flexing as our tool for showing recognition. Everyone in the company has their own emoji, and when you want to recognize someone you put their face in between the two arms flexing. The rest of the company inevitably piles on, only reinforcing the positive feedback or recognition of hard work.
Sharing your status
One of the more widely-used uses of emojis is to share your “status” at work. Are you working from home? Add the tiny home emoji in your Slack status. Are you at lunch? Throw a hamburger in there. Anyone trying to send you a message will inevitably see the emoji and be able to make a quick judgment call on whether to bother you or leave you to enjoy your sushi in peace.
Slack will actually automatically update your status when you’re busy if you integrate your Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar with your Slack account. Every time you’re in a meeting, it will add a meeting emoji to your status, so people know that you’re not to be disturbed. So, if you need to concentrate on work, you can just book off slots in your calendar and Slack will let people know you’re “in a meeting.” This is one of the simplest ways to avoid unnecessary noise and distractions on Slack. Plus, if you use Outlook Calendar, the integration can distinguish between meetings, working remotely, and being out of office, and pick an appropriate emoji for each to provide additional context.
Taking internal surveys
Who wants to go get tacos for lunch? Who is available on December 20th for our team Christmas party. Do you like this logo mock-up? Who worked on our last Enterprise deal? Many people dread asking questions to the wider organization. In emails, they devolve into long threads of individual responses if they get answered at all. Even in messaging or project management tools, people chime in creating sub-conversations, distracting people from their work as they inevitably get caught up in the comments. Emojis provide an easy alternative.
If you need to poll your team or ask a broad question, simply add “Raise your hand if you” in front of all of those questions. Raise your hand if you want to get tacos for lunch. Raise your hand if you worked on our last Enterprise deal. Everyone understands what that means — we all spent our entire childhood in school answering questions with fingers extended towards the ceiling. On a channel like Slack, people can react to your question with the hand emoji as a simple way of answering it without creating a long, drawn-on thread. It’s an efficient means of getting answers without distracting people further.
Sharing team happiness levels
If you manage a team, regular 1:1 meetings allow you to make sure your reports are happy at work, find out if they need support, and flag any issues as they arise. With such huge implications on overall team happiness, these 1:1s may be the most important meetings you have each week.
The main upside of 1:1s is also its potential downside: they’re intentionally private. While companies are becoming increasingly transparent, that transparency tends to not extend to these personal meetings. You want your team members to feel safe enough to be honest, and they likely won’t do that if other people are in the room. At the same time, senior leaders at your company need to know how your team is doing. They also need to know if it’s time for them to intervene.
Emojis offer one interesting way to provide visibility without sacrificing privacy. Create a 1:1 task for each team member in your project management tool (we use Asana). Then, every time you have a 1:1, create a subtask with the date in which you can log notes from your meeting. Once the meeting is over, append an emoji to the subtask title that indicates team member happiness. Similar to the deadline-setting example above, we use:
- a green apple emoji if the employee is entirely happy
- a yellow lemon emoji if there are some issues that need to be worked on
- a red pepper emoji if there are serious issues that need immediate intervention
With one of those emojis in the subtask name, senior leaders can pop into the task and get a general feeling of whether team members are happy, or intervene if they see a red pepper. They can also quickly see how things are trending — are greens going yellow or are yellows going green?
In addition to setting deadlines, emojis can keep you on track by helping you to actually organize your projects. In project management tools like Trello, many people will use emojis as reactions or in task descriptions, but you can actually name projects or lists using emojis.
Creating a vacation handover? Throw a palm tree in the project or list. Need to call a bunch of prospects? Create a list and name it the phone emoji. Then add the contact names and phone numbers as tasks (or sync them as tasks directly from HubSpot). It’s simple and easily understood by everyone who sees it.
Emojis can also be used as custom fields. One great example: we’ve seen a veterinarian use dog and cat emojis as a custom field. They would then create a card for each incoming patient and tag it appropriately. While most of us won’t be treating pupparoos, the value is still there. Maybe you could create a custom field for whether or not clients have paid you, using the money bag and red X emojis. Or, if you have clients in multiple countries, you could add flags as a custom field.
Unito supports emojis and will sync them from one software to another, so you can even make use of custom emojis when collaborating across tools and teams!