Using Emojis and Emoticons at Work?

July 6, 2016

According to Canadian Professionals, Emojis and Emoticons Get a Thumbs Down 

Toronto, ON. -- Should workers hit “send” on that smiley face? New research from staffing firm OfficeTeam suggests it may not be the best idea. Nearly four in five (79 per cent) senior managers interviewed said it’s unprofessional to include emojis or emoticons in work communications; only 19 per cent stated it’s OK, at least in certain situations. When office workers were asked how they feel about these symbols, 64 per cent said they never or only sparingly use them, while 36 per cent send them at least sometimes. 


Senior managers were asked, “Which one of the following statements most closely describes how you feel when someone uses emojis or emoticons in work communications?” Their responses:


Smiley face -- it’s fun!


OK hand sign -- it’s fine in certain situations


Thumbs down -- how unprofessional!


Don’t know/no answer





Workers were asked, “Which of the following statements most closely describes how you feel about using emojis or emoticons in work communications?” Their responses:


I use them all the time because they help me show the feelings behind the message


I use them sometimes but limit usage to casual exchanges with coworkers and not formal communications with higher-ups


I use them sparingly since I don't think they appear very professional


I never use them and prefer to express myself in writing






“Although emojis and emoticons are common in personal communication, make sure they’re considered appropriate before using them at work,” said Koula Vasilopoulos, a district president for OfficeTeam. “Be aware of your audience, otherwise your use of visual expressions could be misinterpreted and may even affect your professional reputation.”

OfficeTeam offers workers five tips for using emojis and emoticons:

  1. Limit it. Use emojis and emoticons minimally, if at all. Going overboard with these icons could annoy others and muddle your message.
  2. Consider your audience. Be mindful of the corporate culture and your relationship with those you’re communicating to. Sending an occasional smiley face to a work friend may be OK, but is less so when interacting with your boss or company leaders.     
  3. Evaluate the situation. Including these images can add levity, but it depends on the topic. Leave them out when discussing serious matters, as it can appear awkward or rude.      
  4. Stick to what you know. Don’t use an emoji or emoticon if you aren’t absolutely certain what it represents and how it will be received. Some symbols can be taken the wrong way or have multiple meanings. 
  5. Just say it. When in doubt, rely on words to get your point across. Opt for in-person or phone discussions with colleagues if it’s helpful to see facial expressions or hear vocal inflections.


About the Research

The surveys of senior managers and workers were developed by OfficeTeam. They were conducted by independent research firms and include responses from more than 300 senior managers at Canadian companies with 20 or more employees, and more than 400 Canadian workers 18 years or older and employed in office environments.


About OfficeTeam

OfficeTeam, a Robert Half company, is the nation’s leading staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of highly skilled office and administrative support professionals. The company has more than 300 locations worldwide. For more information, including job search services, visit Follow @RobertHalf_CAN on Twitter and the OfficeTeam Take Note® blog for additional workplace advice and hiring trends.

For further information contact: Naz Araghian, (416) 865-2140, [email protected]