Information Governance

What To Include in an Email Usage Policy for Employees

Are your employees using email responsibly? Inappropriate email use can have serious consequences for your organization ...

Are your employees using email responsibly? Inappropriate email use can have serious consequences for your organization as a whole, leaving you exposed to data breaches, costly lawsuits, and a tarnished reputation. However, with the right email usage policy for employees, you can ensure that email is used correctly and avoid these risks.

Read on to discover the essential elements to include in an email policy to ensure security, productivity, and professionalism in your workplace.

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Why Are Email Usage Policies for Employees Important?

Over 300 billion emails are sent and received every single day. Without an email usage policy, your organization has zero way of knowing that your employees will use email in a way that aligns with your organization’s goals and values. Costly legal issues can arise if email is used in a way that harasses, discriminates, or breaches confidentiality rules. Unprofessional or offensive emails reflect badly on your company, leading to a loss of trust and credibility.

Furthermore, a lack of a clear email usage policy may lead to the sharing of sensitive information with unauthorized parties, resulting in data breaches that can cost millions of dollars. Excessive personal use of email during work hours can decrease productivity and hinder efficient communication within your organization. 

Organizations can avoid these consequences by implementing a clear email usage policy that defines the expectations and boundaries for email use.

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The Essential Elements of An Email Usage Policy

There are several sections that you should always include in your email usage policy.

1. Policy Scope and Objectives

It’s best to begin an email usage policy by stating your goals. Typically, the two main goals of an email policy are to

  • Ensure proper use of company email systems
  • Protect sensitive information.

You may also include a goal of maintaining professional standards in communication.

The second element of any corporate policy is scope. Setting the scope right at the start is crucial as it defines the boundaries for who and what the policy governs, ensuring that all relevant individuals and areas are included. This helps in preventing misunderstandings and conflicts regarding the application of the policy.

In email usage policies, the scope typically includes all employees, contractors, and any other individuals who have access to company email systems. Additionally, the policy may also address the devices and networks that fall under the policy, such as company-issued devices, personal devices used for work purposes, and remote access to company email.  A clearly defined scope is critical for ensuring consistent application across the organization.

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2. Acceptable Use

With the scope and goals defined, the next element of an email usage policy is your definition of acceptable use. This section provides guidelines for professional language and tone. Consider adding realistic examples of inappropriate email content to educate employees.

Your Acceptable Use section should also define when company email may be used. Generally, companies should only permit corporate email to be used for business-related communications. Some organizations will also permit limited personal use under specific conditions. For example, employees may occasionally use corporate email to communicate with friends and family but should never reveal confidential information.

This section may also require a specific corporate email signature. If your company has a signature requirement, include it in this section. Also, consider providing a clear example so that employees can see what an acceptable email signature looks like. 

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3. Prohibited Use

Including a Prohibited Use section in your email usage policy enables you to define inappropriate email usage so that your employees know what to avoid.

In this section, companies typically prohibit offensive, discriminatory, or harassing language. The sharing of confidential or proprietary information without authorization should also be prohibited entirely.

The prohibited use section should also clarify that your business will not use email for illegal activities or for sending spam, chain letters, or phishing emails.


4. Enforcement

A policy must have an enforcement element in order to ensure employee compliance. This element of an email usage policy explains the disciplinary actions that may result from policy violations. Possible consequences for employees include:

  • Warnings (for first offenders)
  • Suspension
  • Termination
  • Legal Action (for severe violations)

5. Security and Confidentiality

Aside from ensuring appropriate content within employee emails, your usage policy should also dictate the security best practices that employees must follow to protect sensitive information. Many companies require that employees use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication on any corporate email account.  

Ensure that your policy stipulates regular password updates and maintenance of email security measures, including email firewalls. Employees must understand how to handle confidential information in email communications. Your email usage policy should require all sensitive data to be encrypted before being transmitted through email.

Finally, a key part of email security is education. Your employees need to know what phishing emails look like, so they know what emails to avoid. Your email usage policy should include requirements for training on identifying phishing and malware threats. Ideally, the policy would also include a requirement to report suspicious emails to your IT department.

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6. Email Management

Emails that are no longer needed may contain security risks for your organization. Many organizations include an email retention rule in their email usage policy. A retention policy states that emails must be either deleted or sent to an archive after a certain amount of time.

The decision to delete or archive emails can vary depending on the industry and specific regulations that apply. In industries with strict compliance and data requirements, such as finance and healthcare, archiving emails is often necessary to ensure that sensitive information is protected and available in case of an audit or investigation.

Many companies also include a list of organizational practices in this section. Naming conventions, folder organization, and inbox cleaning requirements can all help your employees maintain efficiency and productivity.


7. Monitoring and Privacy

As an employer, you have a legal right to monitor company email usage. Businesses track email usage to help protect proprietary information and stop data leaks. It’s important to clearly notify your employees of this monitoring in your email usage policy. Be transparent about the extent of your monitoring and keep your employees informed.

8. Reviews and Updates

Finally, ensure that your email policy requires periodic reviews to incorporate feedback and adapt to new technologies. The technology world never stops changing, and with the rise of generative AI, it’s important to ensure that your email usage policies are kept up to date. In this section, you should also specify the procedures for updating the policy. Include a requirement to notify employees whenever changes occur.

Secure Your Communications With An Email Usage Policy

Building a strong, clear email usage policy for employees is crucial for protecting your organization from the consequences of inappropriate email use. By clearly outlining the scope, appropriate use, and enforcement measures, you ensure your employees understand your expectations and boundaries when it comes to email communications.

At Cloudficient, we can help you migrate your company’s email system to the cloud. Cloud-based email is more secure, easier to manage, and accessible from anytime, anywhere. We use advanced migration technology to deliver advanced capabilities and cloud transformation to organizations in a wide range of industries. Our focus is on meeting your needs and building custom solutions that exceed your expectations.

With unmatched next generation migration technology, Cloudficient is revolutionizing the way businesses retire legacy systems and transform their organization into the cloud. Our business constantly remains focused on client needs and creating product offerings that match them. We provide affordable services that are scalable, fast and seamless.

If you would like to learn more about how to bring Cloudficiency to your migration project, visit our website, or contact us.

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