Emojis: A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

How Doximity harnesses the power of non-verbal communication in a digital age.

Dec 22, 2022 | Anna Ransbotham-Cole

If you would like an opportunity to join this emoji-filled, fun environment, you're in luck: we're hiring! 🙌

The benefits of effective communication extend beyond productivity, but also towards increasing employee engagement, retention and trust. In an age where we are more distributed than ever, methods of communication are evolving to ensure we continue to foster connectivity among team members. One such evolution in communication is the use of Emojis in the workplace. A recent survey of 9,400 hybrid workers around the world highlighted that 71% of American workers found emoji-less messages lacking. As a resident emoji “power user” myself, seeing this inspired me to do some reflection around how emojis enhance our culture of communication on Slack here at Doximity .

💡 Clarity
Emojis don’t take away from the need to clearly and concisely communicate a point. In fact, one might posit that their variety increases the need to be thoughtful and intentional in how we use them with coworkers of all backgrounds, locations and ages. However, they do help fill in the gaps in digital communication introduced by a lack of physical cues. A researcher of body language by the name of Albert Mehrabian first broke down the components of a face-to-face conversation and found that communication is 55% nonverbal, 38% vocal and 7% words only 1 . “I’ll try to get to this project by the end of the week 😬” is very different from “I’ll try to get to this project by the end of the week 😀”. “I loved it 😊” conveys sincerity, while “I loved it 🙄” implies sarcasm. “That’s interesting 🤔” illustrates reflection, whereas “That’s interesting 🤨” insinuates confusion. Without any emojis, these statements are open to interpretation and, thus, misinterpretation.

Additionally, emoji’s can help attach a clearer sense of priority or categorization to messages. Sometimes a message is intended to be fyi and other times it may require immediate attention . In an otherwise seemingly endless stream of constant communication, an emoji can clarify the end reader’s call to action.

Empathy & Levity
One thing that I particularly appreciate about emojis in the workplace is the ability to communicate empathy to colleagues. If a colleague is feeling under the weather or otherwise going through a hard time, team members will often respond with a hug or other caring emoji to demonstrate their support.

Emojis also greatly reduce stress around overly formal communication. From c-suite to individual contributor, at Doximity emojis are encouraged. Additionally, emojis provide a unique opportunity to introduce levity and positive emotions in otherwise challenging situations . I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself using facepalm to reinforce a “I’m sorry, that was a silly mistake” or a couple of fist-bumps to reinforce the teamwork aspect of arriving at a final decision to a difficult question. A friendly reminder might be accompanied by a bump or a request for a follow up may come with a "pretty please" . Small reactions can lead to tremendous impacts in building a safe environment that encourages transparency, acceptance and an emphasis on learning over not making mistakes.

Bring the Real You
At Doximity, we have just over 5,000 custom emojis in slack . Not only does this showcase the vast array of creativity amongst our employees, but it also opens up virtually limitless opportunities for an individual to infuse their messages with their own signature communication style and personality. We have 12 emojis just for saying “hello” . Add on the 14 emojis we have for waving and it starts to get really fun ! Folks will sometimes recognize one another with custom people-specific emojis as well. A couple of my personal favorites are ”cool Chip” and “Jey” .

The fun extends beyond the simple use of emojis, too. One of our teams went so far as to host an “emojinius” virtual lunch event filled with emoji-themed competitions and activities, while other teams ensure our newbies have their very own photo emoji upon completing their onboarding. Recently, we had our second company-wide competition for the “Best New Emoji” for which we had 26 submissions that garnered hundreds of votes, promoting cross-company engagement and creativity.

Data Team member Kevin Studer recreating emojis through pictures.

Quick Communication
Finally, the ability to respond to messages using emojis to avoid noise and quickly get feedback does more than save time. It also gives team members a speedy way to show alignment around ideas , demonstrate encouragement and gratitude or even indicate progress like looking , thinking , approved and more. Additionally, having an emoji to quickly communicate your availability/status when working asynchronously is helpful for setting expectations in a more meaningful way, like away from keyboard , taking discretionary time off or experiencing internet issues to name a few.

At Doximity emojis provide abundant opportunities to bring clarity, empathy, levity, personality, and efficiency to online communication. With care to use them with intention and mindfulness, they bring a dimension to online communication that is missing from the distributed workplace.

Anna Ransbotham-Cole pictured with a Christmas gift received from one of her team members that represents her, emoji-fied and in pillow form.

Thanks to all the reviewers and individuals mentioned in this post. 🙏

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