How many Kiwis use emojis in the workplace?

While helpful for communication, emojis can also be seen as 'flippant,' cause confusion, says expert

How many Kiwis use emojis in the workplace?

Using emojis in corporate communication is already widespread in New Zealand, but employees are urged to understand the "nuances" when sending them to avoid confusion.

A Frog Recruitment survey of 1,300 Kiwis found that 21% of employees use emojis at work all the time, with younger workers most likely to use them (26%).

Almost a quarter said they never use emojis in the workplace, while 18% said they reserve emojis for internal messages with colleagues.

"Using emojis is generally regarded as being friendly. Because the symbols are universally recognised, they're an excellent icebreaker in communications with someone you don't know very well," Shannon Barlow, Frog Recruitment managing director, said in a statement. "Culturally, they're a fun and informal way to reinforce an idea or to show someone empathy, kindness and joy."

Helping communication

Barlow added that emojis are very good tools for communication in the workplace.

"They can be a helpful communication tool to express ourselves and show our support – or opposition to - ideas at work.”

One example is when an employee receives a thumbs up or tick icon from 35% of colleagues when they do a good job.

They may also get the hand-clapping emoji or party-hat-face-with-noisemaker emoji as a form of congratulatory message.

Misinterpreting emojis

But using emojis does not come without risks, as employees may potentially confuse a colleague when using an emoji that can likely get misinterpreted. Barlow used the thumbs up as an example, as the emoji is usually meant to show agreement or acknowledgement of an idea in a fast and efficient way.

"While this might seem an innocent gesture, it could also be regarded by the receiver as being too flippant of the idea," she said.

In another example, Frog Recruitment tested its respondents by asking what the Slightly Smiling Face emoji means for them when it came from a colleague.

It found that 64% believe the sender is pleased, but 21% believe the sender was being passive aggressive.

Barlow, citing their findings, said those who said the emoji was passive aggressive were from the Gen Z and Millennial respondents.

"This underscores the idea that there are nuances when interpreting emojis and the more we understand about these mixed messages, and what the different meanings for the people sending and receiving them are, the less confusion will happen in the workplace," she said.

When should emojis be used?

Amid these nuances, Barlow said employees need to think about how their message may be received.

"If we're unsure of the nuances that some emojis may provoke, do think twice about sending that smiley face, or we can make a choice to only send an emoji to the people we know well," she stated.

Cover letters and curriculum vitae are also "no-go" zones for emojis, Barlow added.

"Keep it professional – and if you get the job, then is the time to send the emojis to your friends - and the champagne pop emoji is perfect."

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