How Leaders Use Emojis in Slack at Work

by | Jul 8, 2020 | Digital Communication

Today, we published “Leadership Trends: Emoji Usage at Work,” a report that analyzes emoji usage in the workplace. Once frowned upon as teenager text-message slang, emojis have become a major part of how we communicate in the digital workplace (thanks in part to the rise of instant chat services like Slack and Microsoft Teams). And they’re popular for good reason: 81% of people think emoji users are friendlier and more approachable, 74% think they make positive news sound more sincere, and 65% of people feel more comfortable expressing emotion via emojis than talking on the phone. For remote employees using digital communication in place on in-person conversations (which is many of us these days), emojis can help take the place of facial expressions, jokes or even tone of voice.

To dig into this further, we used our AI/ML platform to analyze an anonymous data set of Slack messages from multiple companies to determine a variety of emoji trends including top emojis used by leaders (both positive and negative), what emojis managers use versus their team members, how emoji usage differs by company, sentiment usage with emojis, and more. Our main findings are below.

Data and Methodology

This analysis pulled “emoji reaction” data for 180 days ending 6/10/20 from four enterprises using Slack in the workplace. The total enterprise data set included 83,055 messages, 101,134 emojis, and 466 different types of emojis (custom Slack emojis were excluded). We also include “emoji sentiment,” a measurement of how positive or negative a given emoji is, calculated from a separate public dataset from Twitter and Reddit.

Summary of Findings

  • The most common emoji by far is Thumbs Up. 30% of all emojis in our data set were Thumbs Up. Second is Heart (8.14%), then Laughing Face (6.35%). All of the top five most common emojis are positive ones.
  • Negative emojis were more uncommon. The most popular one (Mask Face) made up just 0.27% of our data set. Frowning Face is second (0.21%) and Thumbs Down is third (0.1%).
  • Covid-19/WFH did not affect emoji usage. The Covid-19 pandemic (and the increase in remote workforces) did not appear to have a significant impact on emoji usage – there was very little change in our data from Q1 2020 to Q2 2020.
  • People tend to stick to the same set of emojis. 71.2% of users used fewer than ten emojis in the last 180 days. 50.7% used fewer than five emojis in that time.
  • Managers use different emojis than the rank and file. The top five emojis used by managers are entirely different than the top five used by their team members. In general, manager emojis tend to show positivity and appreciation (like the Clapping Hands and the Noisemaker) and team member emojis tend to show acknowledgement (like Checkmark and Eyes).
  • Emoji usage is different between companies. Companies seem to have their own “emoji vernacular.” Although there is some overlap, different companies develop different sets of commonly used emojis.
  • Emojis are tailored to respond to particular types of messages. There are significant differences in emoji usage based on the intent of the message that the emojis are applied to. For example, an ad-hoc scheduling request is more likely to receive OK Hand or Coffee emojis, while telling someone work has been completed often gets Thumbs Up or Rocket Ship.

You can read the report, including visualizations and more data on all of the top emoji lists here.

Andy Horng, Co-founder
Andy Horng, Co-founder

As Head of AI, Andy is building smart tools to facilitate healthy, frictionless workplace relationships. He is inspired by the ideals of intelligent infrastructure: machine learning woven into our lives to help us synthesize large quantities of information, overcome cognitive biases, and navigate the world at a higher abstraction level.

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