We all have that coworker who uses emojis all the time in their work emails. Maybe it’s time to join them.

Emojis are having a moment: in April, Apple released racially diverse emojis, Obama recently thanked Japan for inventing the emoji and the upcoming release of 38 new emojis was big news.

But is it really okay to end that email to your coworker with a smiley face? Go ahead. According to The Atlantic, emojis aren’t just for teenagers anymore.

As more and more millennials enter the workforce each year, the way we work is changing. Nine-to-five is no longer the norm, landlines are disappearing, office wear is becoming more casual and coworker relationships less formal. The way we email is changing too.

In one American survey, more than three-quarters of respondents admitted to using emojis at work. And according to scientists, an emoji smiley face activates the same parts of the brain a real smiling face does. So why not add in a smiley face or thumbs up to set the tone?

As much as 90% of how we communicate is non-verbal, which can make it difficult to interpret email, especially when you’ve never met the person on the other side of the screen. We’ve all written and re-written, or read and re-read that email: Is that person mad? Do I sound mean? Or just straightforward?

Like tone of voice and body language, emojis can help people communicate clearly.

But if you’re still wary about using emojis at work, you should be. Emojis are becoming more acceptable at the office, but be careful who you send that smiley to.

The emoji checklist

    1. The forward check
    An emoji between you and you best work friend is okay, but you never know who else could see that email you ended with a few smiley faces. Would you be mortified if that email made its way to your boss’ boss?

    2. The mimicry check
    By using words, slang or jargon in a similar way to the person you’re communicating with (behavioral mimicry), you can avoid making an embarrassing oops “I just called my coworker bro” mistake at work. If your boss says “What’s up!?” you can say it too. Similarly, if someone sent you an emoji, you can send them one back if you want to.

    3. The CEO check
    If you’re emailing someone higher on the corporate ladder than you, stick to formal, emoji-free communication.

And of course, there’s also the option of picking up the phone, or walking over to someone’s desk if you’re worried about how an email might be interpreted. No matter how many emojis there are to choose from (more than 722, FYI), face-to-face communications is always better, and no emoji can replace that.


Nicole Wray is a member of Generation Y and a regular contributor to Workopolis.
Follow Nicole on Twitter
Nicole’s articles on Workopolis