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Part VI: Managing E-Mail Overload > Devising an E-Mail Policy for Your Organiza...

Chapter 33. Devising an E-Mail Policy for Your Organization

Regardless of industry type or number of employees, all organizations that allow employees access to the e-mail system should have a written policy in place. The following guidelines will help you devise a policy that suits your organization.

Establish a comprehensive written e-mail policy for your organization and enforce it equally with officers, managers, supervisors, and staff.

Communicate that the organization’s e-mail system is to be used as a business communications tool. Provide clear guidance on what is, and is not, considered appropriate electronic business communication.

Bear in mind that some personal use of your organization’s e-mail system may be warranted. American workers today put in more on-the-job hours than at any other time in history. For employees who leave the house before dawn and do not return until well past dark, e-mail may be the most efficient and effective way to stay in touch with family members. For the sake of employee morale and retention, savvy employers generally are willing to accommodate their employees’ need to check in electronically with partners and immediate family. Let your employees know where you stand on this issue, and how much personal use (if any) is acceptable.

Incorporate an overview of your organization’s discrimination and sexual harassment policies within your e-mail policy. Because of the relaxed, informal nature of e-mail, some employees will put in writing comments they never would say aloud. Make sure employees understand that, regardless of how it is transmitted, inappropriate comments are off-limits. All it takes is one offensive e-mail message to land you on the wrong side of an expensive, protracted workplace lawsuit.

Review your written e-mail policy with every employee. New hires and long-time employees, managers and supervisors, full-time professionals and part-time staff, telecommuters and temporary employees, independent contractors and freelancers, should all be informed of your e-mail policy. Have each employee sign and date a copy of the policy to confirm they have read, understood, and agree to comply with it. Use e-mail messages, along with the company’s intranet, to remind employees of the e-mail policy and management’s commitment to enforcing it.

Incorporate your written e-mail policy into your organization’s employee handbook and new-hire orientation materials. Make sure the organization’s human resources director understands the importance of reviewing the e-mail policy with every new employee.

Address ownership issues and privacy expectations. Let employees know that the contents of the e-mail system, including passwords, belong to the organization, not the individual user. If management monitors and reads employee e-mail, say so. Make sure employees understand that their e-mail can, and will, be read at any time without notice to or permission of the employee. If there is any chance you may want to monitor employees’ home computers, make that clear as well.

Support your e-mail policy with e-writing guidelines and cyberlanguage policies designed to reduce risks by controlling content.

Establish netiquette policies for e-mail senders and receivers, managers and staff.

Install software to monitor and filter e-mail traveling into and out of your system.

Educate employees about the “whys” behind your e-mail policies. Make employees aware of electronic risks and the repercussions they will face for violating e-mail policy.

If you do business or operate facilities abroad, include in your e-mail policy a discussion about effective international e-communication.

Do not allow employees to dismiss the organization’s e-mail policy as insignificant or unenforceable. Inform employees that their e-mail transmissions will be monitored. Stress that e-mail policy violators will face disciplinary action that may include termination. Let employees know you mean business by enforcing your e-mail policy consistently, regardless of the offender’s rank or tenure with the company.



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