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Set up an organizational email policy

Every organization needs to have an email policy in place that lets employees know what it is considered to be appropriate email usage. It is very easy for people to send email content to others and there is always a risk that inappropriate emails will bring your company into disrepute.

Often, a separate email usage policy is created or included in an organizational Employee handbook. In any case, it is important that you get employees to sign such a policy and make sure they understand what is expected of them.

Below is a list of some points to include when you are drawing up an email policy:

  • Personal email usage – Employees should always be made aware if personal emails are acceptable and to what extent. A good idea is to set limits on the time of day that personal emails can be sent, such as at lunch breaks, and if they are required to save these emails to a separate folder. Also, ensure that employees are not allowed to send or receive certain email attachments such as MP3 files. A maximum file size is also a good idea as large attachments clog up network bandwidth.
  • Prohibited content – It must be clearly stated that employees are forbidden from creating or distributing offensive comments or messages. This includes, but is not limited to, content that contains offensive comments about gender, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or disability. Any employee that breaks this rule should be the subject of immediate disciplinary procedures, which can lead to termination of their employment.  Email should also not be used to discuss direct competitors or any potential acquisitions/mergers.
  • Email risks – Many employees are often not aware of the risks that can occur when using email. Educate them on the potential harmful effects of their actions. 
  • Time wasting – Making use of a company email system for non-business activities ties up network traffic. Inform users that any email action they take should only relate directly to their job role.
  • Best practices – Email etiquette is very important to uphold the good reputation of your organization. Include etiquette rules such as using proper grammar and punctuation, include an email signature that conforms to brand guidelines and enable spell checking. One poorly written email can create a domino effect which can cause issues for the whole organization.
  • Confidential data – There is no instance when you will want sensitive information to be leaked by employees. All employees must be aware that they should not forward or announce any confidential material without permission. Employees should encrypt any confidential information sent via email and change passwords regularly.
  • Archiving policies – Include information as to whether emails will archived and for how long. Many organizations are required by law to archive emails anyway, so it is important to let everyone know that this will happen automatically and how many years they will be retained for. If you are not required to archive emails, notify users about whether they can or should delete emails after a certain time period.
  • Email monitoring – Employees need to know if their emails are being monitored. This means that they will have no expectation of privacy and that your organization can view any content that is sent. If you monitor emails without telling them. an employee can potentially sue you for failing to block a particular message.
  • Email disclaimer – State clearly in the email policy that a legal disclaimer will be added to any email they send.