5th May 2022

Emojis in work communications: Thumbs up thumbs down?    

I recently read an interesting article that reported not only are 67% of us accessing work chat or emails via personnel phones, but over two-fifths of us are using emoji’s to communicate with colleagues. For some, this is not particularly exciting news. It’s just a sign of the times. For others, it is neither appropriate nor professional.

It’s true to say that certain emojis are more widely known and accepted than others (think thumbs up, smiling face, loudly crying face) and might be used to create a friendly and personal tone, which could lead to greater trust and understanding between colleague. However, there are others that are not universally understood by different generations and, if they are, that does not necessarily mean they are universally accepted – especially in the workplace (for example, face blowing a kiss). Their use might well create an impression with the recipient of rudeness, childishness or harassment. Let’s be honest: Do you really know what each emoji means? An equally important question is do you know your audience?

There are three key takeaways from these survey results:

  1. If you allow employees to bring their own devices to the workplace – smartphones, laptops, tablets – you need a BYOD policy. Having their own internet-connected device mean a higher risk for introducing security risks to your business and using personal devices to conduct work creates an opportunity to access and potentially misuse confidential information. BYOD policies can also be helpful to set expectations in terms of work standards. For example, work activities should not be conducted on personal devices at inappropriate times such as during or after work or social drinks.
  2. Update your anti-harassment and bullying policy. Thanks to the prevalence of both home working and social media, long gone are the days when it could be said that this type of behaviour took place, in person, in the workplace. This policy should be updated to make it clear what is and is not acceptable in terms of employees’ online activities and communications including the use of emojis, gifs and other images.
  3. Update your grievance policy. If your employees are using emojis, there’s a good chance your customers’, suppliers’ and other third parties’ employees are using them too. Grievance policies are often drafted with complaints made employees against employees in mind, but it should be made clear that complaints against any person with whom the employee comes into contact with by virtue of their employment can be raised this way.

Unsure how put this into practice? Contact Blackadders Employment Team working in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth and across Scotland.

Donna Reynolds employment law partner

Donna Reynolds, Partner
Accredited by the Law Society of Scotland as a Specialist in Employment Law & Discrimination Law


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