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How Emojis Help Build Close-Knit Remote Teams Sharing emojis and animated gifs can help overcome communication challenges experienced by remote teams.

By Helen Anglin

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Emojis can be found on every smartphone, social network and even in workplaces. In 2015, the Oxford English Dictionary made an emoji their Word of the Year. The "crying with laughter' emoji took the top spot, but it was also noted that the word "emoji' was used more than ever before in language.

However, the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science recently studied the use of emojis in the workplace and discovered that those who use emojis were perceived as having lower competence. This indicates that people only appreciate the use of emojis in less formal settings, or with those who they know in a more social capacity. The study also accepted that emojis were rarely a true reflection of someone's real feelings or emotions, concluding that "a smiley is not a smile."

Over the same time period, we have also witnessed an increase in remote working across the globe- 79% of people surveyed by PGi work outside of the office. Software such as Slack has given us the ability to work from wherever we are in the world. Today, companies can hire the cream of the crop, no matter where they are based. While some workers may find emojis in the workplace inappropriate, for remote workers, I believe this to be a very different case.

Personalities shine through
When most of your communication is not face-to-face, adding emojis into conversations is beneficial. It can allow people to not only convey a message, but also let their personality shine through. Emojis can be light-hearted and demonstrate a feeling of jubilance, but they can also convey feelings of confusion, laughter, or just about any human emotion. They can also act as a joke, in the same way that someone's facial expression or body language can elicit laughter. Many forums and remote workplace programs have even introduced the ability to create custom emojis. This means remote teams can create personal emojis and their own language. This personal feature can help to bond a team, which is always more difficult when the team is scattered across the globe.

Instant reactions
If somebody writes a message, you can "react' with an emoji. If you are having a busy day, using an emoji is a quick reaction, but it demonstrates to your employees that you have noted what they have said and have reacted accordingly. For example, a simple tick or "yes' can demonstrate that the message has been seen and noted.

A useful update
Slack recently added a "status' feature, where you can add an emoji and a short status update to let your colleagues know what you are up to. The feature is particularly useful for notifying people if you are out sick or offline. While some think this feature has a dark side, I disagree. We are no longer teenagers on MSN or texting one another. We know that Slack is our virtual workplace and we're not micromanaged into adding emoji updates every hour or so. For the most part, this new tool can provide useful information to other colleagues.

When and where to use emojis
Although I believe that emojis are useful and beneficial for remote teams, they do have certain time and place constraints. Contacting clients or editors who I don't know does not warrant an emoji. Common sense also dictates which conversation to use an emoji in- perhaps not during your KPI or performance review. Furthermore, I understand the reservations people can have, particularly if they communicate with people in different countries since symbols have very different meanings in different cultures.

The Creative Group created a study and asked participants how appropriate it is to use emoticons with different groups of people. Overall, participants thought it was more appropriate to use emojis with colleagues, rather than their clients or managers. A similar discovery was made by Microsoft and YouGov. They interviewed millennials about the use of emojis in the workplace and found that 88% of respondents said they would use emojis with co-workers. Although some may deem emojis as a demonstration of "lower competence', we must remember that today's workplace is constantly changing. I communicate with over 50 colleagues a day across the globe, many of whom I've never met in person. Being able to react with an emoji or to send a quick smiley face can help to bring us closer together when we lack that face-to-face interaction. When used appropriately, emojis are powerful tools of communication, both in the workplace and in our everyday lives.

Related: Made For The Middle East: Halla Walla Offers Emojis That Are Characteristics To Arab Culture Next Article

Helen Anglin

Content marketer at Exposure Ninja

Helen Anglin is a content marketer at Nottingham-based digital marketing company Exposure Ninja.

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