July 16, 2020 3:00 pm
Every business needs to have some form of email use policy in place. For a company that deals with sensitive subjects, this policy could be a matter of legal necessity. Even companies that don’t deal with sensitive topics such as medical or financial records, there are concerns like having employees using the email for personal use on company time. Continue reading why your business needs a corporate email use policy and how you can instate an effective one.
Simply put, a corporate email policy includes the rules about the use of the email account in the company. This policy contains who can use the email account, when they are allowed to use it, and what type of information is allowed through the regular email system. In some corporations, there are general accounts and secured accounts. Both have their use policy.
An email policy serves several different purposes. The most apparent purpose an email policy serves is to protect company information. The plan helps make sure sensitive information is kept safe from would-be hackers who can get into the entire computer system through email.
An effective policy should cover the following:
Different companies have different needs. For example, in an office environment that has employees always dealing with clients, every person may need to have access to the email account. In other companies, maybe only executives or the HR department needs access.
The email use policy also must be relevant to the organization. For example, there is no need to put rules in place about sharing records if the organization doesn’t deal with those records. If there is a separate email account for company development, the general account doesn’t need to cover sharing company secrets. Still, the secure account needs to have this possibility directly addressed.
The primary purpose of an email use policy is to protect the company from legal liability, security breaches, and reputation damage. Many hackers have destroyed entire systems by gaining access through email, including activating viruses and trojan horses that can infiltrate sensitive records or cause the system to collapse and be rendered useless.
Once you know the components that go into a proper email use policy, you can quickly create one whenever possible. Use the following outline to make sure you include all the necessary components.
Start the document with an introduction that states that you are instating an email use policy so that there is no misunderstanding among employees. Let them know that this policy includes everyone unless otherwise noted and explain precisely why you are putting the system into use.
In this section, cover what is bound by this policy. If there are exceptions, list them also. You may also include information on how a person is to go about getting an exception to the plan if necessary. You may want to also include information here on what situations may require an exemption.
The policy should make it clear that business email is company property. Anything and everything sent or received on the company email account can be considered open to viewing by those in charge, and your employees can’t claim the information is private.
In this section, you must make clear what is meant by the appropriate use of the email account. The use of email should be for work-related purposes. If necessary, list the types of business communications that fall into this category.
This section covers when, if ever, the email policy will allow personal use. In most cases, this is not a good practice. Opening up the email to any private use puts the whole plan in jeopardy of being ignored over time.
This section needs to cover what types of emails you may receive and when. Cover information on how to recognize phishing and other scams. Set a policy for handling these. Should they be deleted or reported? Make it clear that pornography is not to be allowed. Make it a rule that nobody is to open any attachments from unknown senders. Create protocols for the employees to follow in each of these situations. Explain that many of these are ways to introduce viruses into the system.
This section covers email security viruses, personal information, and trade secrets. Explain that your company has specific information that, if leaked, could be detrimental to the business. Maybe it is the secret recipe of a widely-sold product or the process of production of an item. We are all aware of how devastating it can be to get a computer virus. Some computer viruses destroy everything in the system, and others make access to personal information possible. The security of the personal data your company keeps is essential. Having this leak could destroy the company, along with trust.
State the disciplinary actions for non-compliance with the policies. Let everyone know what will happen if they use the email system in any way that has been deemed prohibited.
You can extend the policy by including a section that helps your employees know how they are to conduct themselves when sending or receiving email communication.
Set what the tone, quality, and clarity of any email content should be. This section will discuss how and when to use such functions as reply all, forwarding, and responding. Make it clear that each of these things has its purpose, and it is essential to make sure you are using the correct action before sending each email.
Discuss the email access, storage, attachment size limit, spam, and junk limitations, and other relevant information. Explain whether individual emails should be deleted or if all should be saved to a particular file. Talk about setting up a filing system that makes recovery of emails easy for reference. Also, indicate how often the Inbox merits checking.
This section will discuss how employees can retrieve emails if necessary. Retrieval goes back to the filing system. If possible, list categories for reference. A predetermined list may be most comfortable when working in an office that sees all employees doing the same type of work, such as a real estate office.
This section will discuss email after work hours or during vacations. In most cases, this should not occur except when someone must reach their supervisor or human resource department. If an employee is on vacation and has the information needed by someone in the office, then an exception could be made but should be discussed with a higher up first.
Let everyone know in this section how this policy will be implemented and monitored. If you may be conducting periodic, random checks on the accounts, then state this in this section.
Email security programs abound. This part will explain what security measures you have in place and tell how they are to be used by the employees—knowing how it makes it more likely that the security programs will get regularly used. Make it clear what will happen if the system experiences a security breach due to failure to utilize the email security measures that are in place.
This section explains how there will be periodic training sessions to make sure everyone understands the email use protocol and how to implement it. It also mentions who must be present at such training.
Here is where you explain how you will be enforcing the policy. Will there be random checks on the email accounts? Will it be on the honor system? Be open with your employees, especially if you will have access to their screens at all times. Remember, honesty on your part encourages honesty on the part of your employees. Do not hesitate to sanction any breaches of the protocol, as outlined earlier in this document.
Misusing the corporate email system may only amount to employees doing things other than work during work hours. Personal use may not put anything in jeopardy in the way of security, but it amounts to stealing time from the company. It also makes it possible that essential business communications get pushed aside, lost, or forgotten.
Unfortunately, most companies have important private information on their computers. Maybe the data is only names and phone numbers of clients in one business. In another corporation, it could mean addresses, health information, or financial information. A breach in security could put all your clients and employees at risk physically and financially. Such a violation will ruin the reputation of your company in a way that may prevent you from ever regaining trust.
By setting up a clear, effective corporate email use policy, you enable your employees to do their part in keeping your email and entire computer network safe. Once you have such a system in place, you can turn your attention to other matters that are important for running a successful business.
Companies are responsible for monitoring and
ensuring effective management of email usage in an organization.
Contact us if you need assistance with your email use policy.
This blog post is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created between the author and reader of this blog post, and its content should not be relied upon as legal advice. Readers are urged to consult legal counsel when seeking legal advice.