Finding emoji – here’s how much time it takes to find the right emojis (+ lessons learned)

Krista Krumina 14.04.2022

If you can’t imagine your everyday communication without emojis, you’re not alone. Data shows that 92% of the online population uses emojis daily, with over 10 million emojis being sent every day. And with new emojis being released every year, finding the right emoji takes more and more time.

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Smileys, thumbs up, crying faces – they’ve all found their way into our workplace communication, too. Selecting and adding emojis to messages to colleagues and clients has become a habit that 75% of office workers now have. A habit that, as my experiment shows, invisibly steals hours of your working time every year.

I measured how much time it takes for me – a regular employee with no special affection for emojis – to find the right emoji while chatting during work. I gathered the data by recording my computer screen for one week, then watching the video at 10x speed and counting the minutes and seconds I spent browsing and choosing emojis. 

Here’s what I found:

On the week of my experiment, I spent 17 minutes and 14 seconds browsing emojis, looking for the one that would fit best with the message I was about to send. The record was 8 minutes and 13 seconds in one day (that was Monday, by the way).

While 17 minutes per week doesn’t sound too much, it adds up to an hour and 9 minutes per month. That’s nearly 14 hours a year – close to two full working days. For such a tiny activity, that seems like a hell of a lot of time!

There were other lessons I learned – here they are.

Emoji mirroring is a thing (and you should do it more often)

Just like we tend to mirror people we talk to in real life, it seems that we do the same as we communicate online.

In a real-life conversation, mirroring refers to copying the body language, speech, or facial expression of the person we’re communicating with. Such an intentional or unintentional imitation of your interlocutor is a way to establish a better connection and convey specific messages more efficiently. 

With non-verbal cues, such as body language or facial expressions, being absent in online chats, I realized I tend to mirror other people’s use of emojis. For example, if someone would regularly use a certain emoji, such as the upside-down smiley (🙃) or bowing emoji (🙇), I would subconsciously start using it too – but only when communicating with this specific person.

The customer communications platform Intercom indicated that businesses that mirror their customer’s use of emojis have better chances to form genuine, lasting relationships with them. Similarly, emoji mirroring can help you build closer and more productive relationships with your colleagues. 

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There’s rarely a rational reason for the use of emoji

The truth is, the great majority of our typed messages would be self-sufficient and able to convey the desirable message without emojis. For example, a simple ”hi” to your colleagues in your team chat is able to convey the intended message without an accompanying smiley (😊) or waving hand emoji (👋). 

Yet, we’re so used to adding emojis that we do it automatically. And while it’s quick and easy to attach one of your frequently-used emojis that are within hands’ reach, it’s a whole other story when you want to find more specific emojis.

As my team and I started to get Covid-19 shots, I spent a lot of time searching for the needle or syringe emoji (💉) that I had never used before. Not that my message would read differently if I didn’t use it, but right there and then, I needed to add this specific emoji.

This made me realize – emojis that were originally created to fill in emotional cues otherwise missing from typed conversations have now become something we’ve started to use for no rational reason. 

The use of emojis at work is not a waste of time

Yes, the use of emojis is not always rational. Yes, it takes hours of your company’s time every year. And yes, for me personally, it’s often a way to procrastinate and kill time.

Yet, I don’t think that spending time on finding emojis is a complete waste of time. Here’s why:

  • Browsing emojis is kind of a break – when focusing on finding a specific emoji, you’re giving your brain a quick break from the task at hand. Yes, that break can only be seconds long, but it still counts.
  • The use of emojis is a way to express emotions at work that we would otherwise suppress. Look – people experience a variety of emotions in a work setting, too. While sending a crying emoji or angry face in a work chat can’t replace the physical release of emotion, it still allows people to express themselves. In fact, an Adobe study found that over half of people are more comfortable expressing their emotions through emojis than in person.
  • Emojis connect people working in a remote setting. When in the office, people can share a laugh and bond at the coffee machine or ping-pong table. For people working remotely, there isn’t an option to meet and chat face to face, but there are emojis and gifs. When someone shares a joke, others can reply with laughing emojis or high-fives, that way imitating this sense of togetherness.

Finding the right emojis takes time, and that’s ok

To me, finding appropriate emojis for my typed messages takes over an hour every month. For more avid emoji users, it probably takes more. But at the end of the day, it’s okay – there’s a reason why emojis have become an integral part of our private and work communication. In an online setting, they help us express ourselves in a way that would otherwise be impossible. 

As a manager, you should not only approve your employees’ use of emojis but start using them more often yourself. It’s been found that employees, especially Gen Z, like their jobs more if their bosses use emojis in their workplace communication. So, stop hating smileys and start giving everyone thumbs up!

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