Born way back in 1987, the humble GIF has got plenty of history, and while its original purpose has been largely forgotten, it has forged a surprising new identity. Today, it’s part of our everyday communication , adding animated weight to our words or replacing them entirely. It’s even listed within the world’s most popular dictionaries (as a noun and a verb), and in 2012, it was voted word of the year by the press association.
But who needs a history lesson right? Everyone knows that GIFs are just plain fun!
Right! But GIFs are much more than a simple distraction or lighthearted diversion. GIFs can and do convey real meaning—meaning which sometimes goes way beyond simple words. So, with an infinite lexicon of non-verbal communication at your fingertips, it’s little wonder that they’ve taken the world by storm.
The only problem is, while GIFs by the billion ping back and forth between personal users, their adoption within the workplace has been much slower. Perhaps a more conservative approach to communication has generally erred on the side of caution, or maybe it’s simply a matter of demographics—either way, Spike has never much cared for convention, and we’re here to open the floodgates to workplace GIFing for good!
Are GIFs Appropriate to Use at Work?
As we’ve already mentioned, the beauty of GIFs lies in their ability to convey meaning without the shackles of conventional language. You know what they say; a picture is worth a thousand words. However, when at work, GIFs can help push your productivity to new levels, while also helping you to build stronger relationships with coworkers and keep remote workers/freelancers feeling like part of the team. Of course, you’ll probably get a few laughs along the way too!
Firstly, using GIFs for work emails or within team chats gives you the opportunity to save time. You can literally encapsulate an entire sentence or even paragraph with the right GIF, and their instantaneous way of sharing emotions, humor, and even more complex messages helps to keep busy people connected even when your inbox is bursting at the seams. Time is money, so they say, and streamlining your communication is an easy way to boost productivity.
Secondly, using GIFs at work allows you to build stronger bonds with coworkers and team members—wherever they are in the world! Consider the humble GIF used to express gratitude—while a simple “thanks” or “good job” will do, a lively GIF designed to make someone laugh while still conveying the same message boosts morale and shows you’re not quite the uncompromising taskmaster everyone thinks you are!
However, whenever working in a professional setting using GIFs for work emails should be approached with care. For instance, it might not be appropriate to send a new client a cheeky GIF, and it’s probably always a good idea to steer clear of sexually charged GIFs at work. Put simply, deciding whether to use GIFs at work should be done on a case-by-case basis, and when in doubt, check with your HR department to ensure you stay within the realm of reason (and regs)!
Can GIFs Work Better Than Words?
If you want to get into semiotics, then there’s a clear case for GIFs enhancing meaning in a variety of ways, tapping into the zeitgeist and redefining meaning through cultural references. Consider the difference between a static image of a man crying and James Van Der Beek from Dawson’s Creek sobbing in one of the most popular GIFS of the last two decades.
Naturally, we’re taught that the image of a crying man depicts sadness, or maybe even crisis, however, the looped image of Dawson sharing his melodramatic reaction with the viewer holds a very different meaning. No one would deny that sending that specific GIF would only ever be meant as a joke, and it’s unlikely that it would accompany any truly sad news.
The hammy nature of the acting, the cultural associations of the show, and the constraints of the format itself may also convey other meanings. It might be sarcasm or despair, even elation or happiness, but always tongue-in-cheek. The endless loop plays its part too, and surely those French semioticians and philosophers (Barthes, we’re looking at you) would recognize existentialism personified in these few seconds of video!
The bottom line is, a GIFs meaning is often decontextualized from its original meaning—a man crying is no longer just a man crying! Leaning heavily on cultural references and reader interpretation, your GIF can say more than a thousand words—just check out the story of poor Pepe the Frog if you want a disturbing example of how meaning can be subverted!
So, can a GIF work better than words at work? You tell us!
Better GIFing Through Creativity
While you’re free to choose from the billions of premade animations within the GIFiverse, there’s an argument to be made for making your own. GIFs can convey all types of meaning, and their flexibility as a vehicle to convey that meaning really knows no bounds. Naturally, you can make your own personalized GIFs for a bit of fun, including staff members or even the boss, but GIFs at work can also be used as more professional way to spread your message.
Want to spice up marketing emails to show your full range of products? A a GIF will do the job. Need to highlight specific health & safety regulations to your staff? A GIF can support your message. Want to boost your social media accounts with the next viral hit? Get GIFing right away! The truth is, whether you’re reaching out internally or externally, a GIF can help your company get right to the point.
There are plenty of ways to make your own GIFs for work online, however, when it comes to all things Graphics Interchange Format, then GIPHY is undoubtedly the king. So, whether you want to create a mind blowing marketing email or a simple homage to your coworkers last fail, check out the GIF maker and get creative.
Spike LOVEs GIFs
If all this talk of GIFs has made you hungry for more, then relax—Spike has got your back. We love GIFs, and that’s why we’ve integrated them directly into your inbox so you can fire off your favorites at work. A single click on the icon at the bottom of your message is all it takes, and since our GIF generator is powered by GIPHY, you can be sure you’ll find an entire universe of meaning to enhance your emails.
Download Spike now to try it out or stay tuned to the blog for more information on communication, Conversational Email, and how we’re redesigning the way you work to boost flow and streamline your every day! Oh, and don’t forget to drop us a tweet with your GIF ideas @SpikeNowHQ—we can’t wait to see what your creative brains come up with!