Most businesses use email as a key communication tool. It can be a quick, convenient and effective way of contacting both customers and other members of your team, without the disruptive effect of a phone call.
But if you use email, you need to set up a clear email policy. This will help you prevent timewasting, protect the security of your systems and data and minimise the risk of legal problems.
This briefing outlines:
You might prohibit:
Offensive jokes can be a particular problem.
For example, using email to harass someone or deliberately sending a virus.
Consider giving employees separate personal addresses. Emails can then be filtered into separate business and personal folders.
This is usually somewhere between the informality of a telephone conversation and the formality of a letter.
An overly formal style may seem laboured and tedious to people used to quick, friendly emails.
But beware of allowing internal email to become excessive (see 3.7).
Many internet service providers place restrictions on attachment size (eg 5Mb).
For example, lists of customers and information about new products.
An email can be as contractually binding as any other form of communication.
For example, a simple one might say:
'This email is confidential, and is intended for the use of the named recipient only. If you have received this message in error, please inform us immediately, and then delete it. Unless it specifically states otherwise, this email does not form part of a contract.'
Excessive email, particularly internally, can lead to overwork or a tendency to disregard emails. It can also seem impersonal.
Some companies ban the reply-to-all feature completely.
Assign responsibility for dealing with such emails and set up your technology so that only relevant people can read them.
Depending on your industry, a faster response time may be more appropriate.
It is not usually a good idea to respond to spam, even just to ask to be taken off a mailing list. A response confirms that the email has been sent to a live address.
There are legal restrictions on how you can monitor employees' use of email, although this remains a grey area.
You may inspect individual emails for 'specific business purposes', including:
If you wish to make interceptions for other purposes (eg marketing), you will need the consent of the sender and the recipient.
Provide a contact name for employees who have any questions.
Typically, the network administrator will be responsible for routine enforcement.
A director should take overall responsibility.
Clarify any exceptions.
The policy will only provide legal protection if it is properly implemented and enforced.