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An email policy is a legal document that details your organization’s definition of acceptable use for the company email system.

It should indicate who emails can be received from or sent to, as well as outline what constitutes appropriate content for work emails.

Prior to creating a policy, you need to ensure that the policy is compatible with your existing policies. This can include existing company policies, business letter guidelines, confidentiality guidelines, telephone system guidelines and workplace guidelines. It should reflect the values and viewpoints of the organisation.

A company email policy will:

Protect the Organization from Liabilities: When all employees read and sign an email policy, it proves they are aware and agree to the information contained in that policy. Should an email be sent that is not considered appropriate content according to the email policy, the employee, not the business, would bear the brunt of liability for any damages or suits brought as a result of their sending an inappropriate email.

Promote a Professional Environment: If email is used only in a professional manner in the workplace, you can be sure that embarrassing mistakes will not occur. For example, if staff are using work email to communicate with friends, the content in those emails are likely to be sloppy, unprofessional, and informal. If those emails accidentally get sent to clients or other professionals – the company image may become damaged. If an email policy does not allow for the personal use of the work email system, your staff will remain in a professional mindset and eliminate the potential of personal emails going out to customers. The policy should expressly state that the email system is not to be used for the creation or distribution of any offensive, or disruptive messages, including messages containing offensive comments about race,  gender, age, sexual orientation, pornography, religious or political beliefs, national origin or disability.

Increase Productivity: Email tends to be a distraction for employees who are using it for non-professional reasons. If an email policy prohibits the use of work email for personal use, your employees will stay on task more and avoid the distractions that come from sending and receiving personal emails during work hours. Your policy may have a requirement to answer all emails within a guaranteed time frame – perhaps 4 hours.

Establish Systems for EmailIf the email policy outlines appropriate content for an email sent during work hours over the company email system, it can also help establish systems to ensure all staff members are contributing to the brand or image of the company. Have each staff member use a template for email responses and set up signature lines that appear in all outgoing emails to further establish the company’s professionalism and image in the eyes of individuals who may receive email from your staff. Setting guidelines for content and use of email creates a single, comprehensive image of the company that helps keep the organization aligned with its mission. If you are going to monitor employee emails then you must explicitly state this in the policy.

The wording in the Policy should be kept simple and no longer than a few pages. It should where possible be in short concise bullet points. Long policies will not only be not read, but they also will not be remembered.

An email policy is a document that provides your business with certain legal protections involving misuse of the email system by employees. Because it is a legal document, many businesses elect to have a lawyer draw up the email policy, or at the very least, review the policy before it is implemented within the organization. Having a lawyer review or prepare an email policy may seem like an unnecessary upfront cost, but has the potential to save you in legal fees in the future.

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