In the last several years, it’s become standard practice to use email at work — for office communication, corporate contacts and clients, and sometimes personal use. Given the mass use of this convenient communication tool (indeed, many of us can type faster than we can speak or handwrite), a company email policy should be put into practice. Why? A few reason come to mind, chief among them being: professionalism, safety, legality and overall harmony.

Professionalism.

Workplace emails should reflect the professional setting in which they are composed. While we are accustomed to the casual tone that emailing affords us, it shouldn’t be taken for granted. Email policies should include the right and wrong ways to address colleagues and superiors, i.e. the use of internet shorthand, slang or emoticons.

Safety.

Those who have used email since its rise in popularity in the late ‘90s know that the internet as a whole and especially emails can be risky business. It should therefore be important to stress the correct use of such things as links and attachments in corporate emails. As a rule of thumb, a good email policy will inform employees of virus and phishing schemes that can penetrate shared content and advise against opening files from unknown senders. This becomes a bigger risk when multiple computers are on a shared server, as powerful viruses may spread from a single computer to the entire system.

Legality.

Some industries tend to deal with highly sensitive information. If this is the case, the information shared via email must be carefully monitored. To be in good legal standing with both your employer and business contacts is paramount. Sharing confidential information without permission, forging messages, disguising one’s identity in a message and more can all be met with legal action from your company or business contacts and should be prohibited under the email policy.

Harmony.

No office environment should be hostile. So, to go along with professionalism, email communications should maintain (or at least not disrupt) the overall harmony of the workplace. Obscene, racist or otherwise inappropriate remarks not only make others uncomfortable but also make the commenter and company look bad. In this sense, messages containing potentially offensive information (i.e. jokes or controversial opinions) should be prohibited as per the email policy.

To give employees a better sense of what they may and may not do in their work-related emails, consider holding a training session, or at least giving each member a copy of the policy to read and sign. Encourage the practices of being both concise and specific in email subject lines and content, rather than potentially leaving the recipient confused. Employers may also wish to implement an email monitoring system to have a better idea of infractions that occur and enable swift corrective action.

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