With work from home being the new norm, effective communication has never been more important - especially with good old email.

To make messages more friendly and approachable, some of us may be tempted to add emojis to it. However, does that really help in work-related contexts?

According to a study by ResumeLab, only 40% of 1,000 respondents included in the study considered emails featuring the little yellow fellas professional (vs. 69% when not including them) - a staggering 72% difference in favour of not adding them to business emails.

While messages which included emojis were on average considered more friendly (by 15% more of the survey-takers), respondents (especially women and the younger generation) were less likely to act on the messages with emojis.

The emoji-free message would prompt into action 11% more younger respondents than the same message w/emoji (83% vs. 72%). Among women, 86% would be more likely to act on the message without emoji compared to 78% who would if they received a message w/emoji.

Thankfully, both types of messages were thought of as equally clear in intent with or without the emojis. Similarly, the sentiment of the message was also implicitly understood, suggesting that using emoticons can be superfluous.

That said, there is a time and place for everything. For example, Coronavirus update announcements were not a good place to show off your emoji expertise, as only 45% of survey takers considered it professional to do so (vs. 86% when the icons were excluded).

Another situation where you might want to refrain from using emojis is in your out of office (OOO) responder.

The difference in perceived professionalism of such a message is 38% with emoji vs. 74% without it. People working in large organisations employing over 500 people should be particularly wary given only 35% of your coworkers who’ll read an emoji-spangled autoresponder message from you will perceive it as professional, compared to 85% who would if you left out emoji entirely.

Scroll through the infographics for more findings.

emoji in work related emails 2

emoji in work related emails 3


For this study, we collected answers from 1,000 respondents through Amazon's Mechanical Turk. 502 of our respondents read email samples with emoji and 498 of our respondents read email samples without emoji. In each case, the respondents consisted of 52% males and 48% females. Each sample's average age was 38 with a standard deviation of 12.

To avoid biased replies, the same respondents were not given the same message in two versions. Two separate surveys were set up for two separate groups of people whose age and gender makeup was representative of American society. The surveys were then run in line with A/B testing methodologies and the results were compared.

Seven email samples represented typical work-related scenarios. From a simple organisation-wide memo detailing a company outing to a coronavirus policy update to an automated OOO message.

Each sample was followed by a set of questions to evaluate the message’s professionalism, friendliness, clarity, and sentiment. In some cases, respondents were also asked to evaluate the message’s seriousness, honesty, or say if they would act upon it.

Infographics / ResumeLab
Photo / iStock

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