Why Your Business Needs an E-Mail Policy

Why is it imperative to have a company E-Mail Policy? It is
simply good business, that’s why! In addition, having a clear
and detailed e-mail policy in place, one that employees sign and
date before they are allowed access through your businesss’
computers, is critical to you being able to enforce or react to
situations that may arise at a later date.

Even assuming you have the best folks working for you, or on your
behalf, does not negate the need for this type of policy to be
established. Hopefully, you will never need to refer to your
policy statement in regard to an employee’s actions or behavior
while on company time. However, if you do find yourself in that
situation down the road, you will be relieved these terms and
conditions are in place for your protection.

With technology now in the workplace and e-mail accessible to
more employees than ever, connectivity makes it easy for all
employees to surf the Web on company time, circulate unnecessary
and/or inappropriate messages and illegally copy content. These
activities can lead to:

=> Claims of sexual harassment and discrimination. This occurs
when e-mail or information is forwarded to an employee who may
not have the same sense of humor as the sender. We all have had
our e-mail boxes filled by well intending friends with the latest
joke or chain letter, some of which could offend the recipient or
are not appropriate in a professional environment.

=> Misaddressed messages that lead to intentional or inadvertent
release of corporate trade secrets. One typo, dot, dash or space
where it shouldn’t be (and folks typo e-mail addresses all the
time) and your company information can very easily end up being
delivered to another e-mail address outside of the company.

=> Network and spam attacks. Those who do not understand the
basics of Online Netiquette, many times put themselves in a
situation of having e-mail bombs or repetitive e-mail being sent
which can cripple your network due to their actions. Employees
who do not market your business within established protocols can
cause your server and ISP to cancel your accounts due to spam
complaints to your hosting and e-mail providers.

=> Copyright infringement issues and the possible legalities that
can ensue. Copyright is one of the most misunderstood issues
online. Many believe that information, graphics, etc. are online
for the taking. Right click and it is yours! To set the record
straight, there is nothing further from the truth. All
information and graphic images are protected by the person who
created them. To take content or images without the
creator’s/author’s written permission is copyright infringement.
It is also copyright infringement to forward or quote another
person’s private e-mail in a public venue such as mailing lists
and discussion groups without their written permission to do so.

Abuse of e-mail may also lead to:

=> Waste of computer resources. Large gratuitous downloads can
negatively impact your bandwidth allowances and incur additional
charges from your provider not to mention lower employee
productivity.

=> Drain on limited storage capabilities. Limits in disk storage
space can easily be maxed out incurring additional charges.

=> Slower response times for legitimate business activities.
Focus is lost on priorities and customer service. Company e-mail
activities should be considered one of the highest priorities
that many times will fall by the wayside in lieu of employees
becoming sidetracked by these other activities.

=> Increased network traffic. Unnecessary network traffic can
cause your entire network to come to a grinding halt if
acceptable computer and online usage is not clearly defined.

=> E-mail forgery. I could send an e-mail today appearing to be
Bill Gates. Only those with an above average technical knowledge
would be able to determine it was a hoax and trace it back to me.

All company e-mails should use your dot com/net/org to identify
all employees. E-mail settings should not be tampered with or
changed for any reason.

=> Create a negative perception of your business image,
legitimacy and level of credibility. One cannot underestimate
the power of perception as it relates to your businesss’ e-mail
activities. Each e-mail should be taken as seriously as though it
were written on company letterhead. How it is written, the words
used, whether proper Netiquette it practiced or lack there of can
have a negative impact on those communicating with your company.

Any e-mail policy should start with the following basics. You
will want to review each carefully and then jot down and add the
specifics unique to your business environment and culture.

1) Specify that the computer and e-mail system belongs to the
business for authorized purposes only. While on company time any
use of the Company’s equipment (computer) is to be used solely
for business activities related to the performance of an
employee’s job responsibilities.

2) Set clear expectations of employee privacy. What will be
private and what won’t – if anything. Trends indicate that the
majority of e-mail policies currently in place state clearly that
while on company time, employees should not expect to have any
privacy in regard to their use of company owned equipment and
resources.

3) Establish monitoring as a “right” of the employer. It should
be expected and acknowledged.

4) Make sure employees understand attention should be taken when
addressing e-mail and when drafting them to avoid including
copyrighted material. Each e-mail an employee sends utilizing an
e-mail address with your dot com/org/net reflects on your
business and makes you inevitably liable if another author’s
information is misused without their permission. Not only are
there legal ramifications, but again, do not underestimate how
your enterprise will be perceived by virtue of the use of a
company e-mail address in communications.

5) Outline specific types of content that should be avoided in
e-mail messages. The more detail the better here!

6) Have employees sign and date the e-mail policy. Put a copy
in their personnel file and give them a copy to have on hand for
reference purposes.

It would also be recommended that each employee be sent to my
OnlineNetiquette.com site or given a copy of my soon to be
released book: “Because Netiquette Matters! Your comprehensive
reference guide on e-mail etiquette and proper technology use.”
This will ensure they are aware of all the issues and practices
they need to integrate when e-mailing on behalf of and using your
company’s resources to communicate online.

For a sample E-mail Policy that you can use and modify, visit my
main consulting site @:
http://www.theistudio.com/example_epolicy.html

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