“Ding!” For office workers, most days begin with the chime of new email arriving. In fact, a recent study by Adobe Systems found employees spend over 3 hours per day sorting and answering work emails. This doesn’t only happen at the office—employees often take their laptops and smartphones home (if they aren’t working there already), making it simpler than ever to view and respond to email outside business hours.
While email can facilitate fast, efficient and effective communication across an organization, it also poses dangers, not least related to cyber security. This is why it’s a good idea for businesses to create an official email policy. In addition to letting employees know what is and isn’t appropriate use of company email, you can include crucial details on what action to take to prevent cyberattacks.
What to Include in Your Corporate Email Policy
Email plays a big role in the modern workplace, so by creating an email policy you’re shaping how your business functions. Weigh up the pros and cons of allowing (or even expecting) your team to be responsive to emails at all hours. Limiting use is inconvenient, but the alternative may be burnout. Consider how to limit the sheer volume of emails employees are expected to deal with—fewer, more powerful emails may have a bigger impact anyway, and everyone will have more time to get things done.
Industry research shows 74 percent of U.S. companies experienced a phishing attack in 2020, and 22 percent of data breaches involve phishing through email. An email policy is the first (but not last) place you should warn employees of the potential risks they face and help prepare them to handle suspicious emails. Most companies have specific actions to take when a suspected phishing email arrives—lay these out clearly.
Set parameters for use
Even though most workers have a personal email account, many still need to be reminded that company e-mail should primarily be used for company business, and all email is property of the company. Some companies make this rule strict, drawing a clear line, while others are a bit more flexible. Either way, employees should understand that company emails, including personal notes, are not fully private.
If your company allows access to email from personal devices, your policy can provide guidance on how this is handled in terms of cellular data charges and tech support.
Discuss email etiquette
Most of us have been using email for decades (and might even still remember the AOL “You’ve Got Mail!” sound), but it’s still a good idea to outline the basics. Point out when it’s appropriate to “reply all” to an email and, more importantly, when it isn’t. Give advice on how to set up an out-of-office reminder, what items to include on an email signature and how to handle attachments, etc.
An increasing number of business are setting parameters on sending and responding to email after business hours. It’s in everyone’s interest for employees to be able to maintain a healthy work/life balance, but this is hard to do when they never truly log off. Of course, every business is different and key employees need to be available at inconvenient times. However, it’s worth suggesting to your team that before sending an out-of-hours email, they ask themselves, “Can this wait till Monday?”
Outline inappropriate use
Point out examples of what constitutes inappropriate use of email. This includes sending harassing, pornographic, racist, sexist or other offensive material via email.
Penalties for not complying
An email policy can only be a success if it’s actually followed. Make sure everyone understands that this is mandatory, not only guidance, and that there will be consequences for non-compliance.
An email policy shouldn’t be developed in a vacuum. Consult with marketing, public relations, legal, compliance and your information technology departments to produce a comprehensive policy that is tailored to your company’s needs. Like other policies, make sure your email policy is easily accessible either on the company intranet and/or part of your employee handbook. It should also be part of your onboarding process.
Email will continue to be a valuable tool for communicating across organizations. Developing a policy helps employees maximize the value of the tool, avoid burnout and minimize the risk to your business. To help you get started, Paycor is offering a free, customizable email policy template. Fill out the form at the top of the page to get your free copy.