Looking to create an email policy for your business?
Email policies are essential if you don’t want your employees to misuse their work email accounts.
Not only does an email policy protect your business from unnecessary legal trouble, but it also creates clarity for your employees by setting proper expectations and guidelines on how to use email with the company’s computing facilities.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about setting up an email policy. We’ll tell you what it is, why you need one, and what your policy should cover. We’ll even highlight a sample email policy so you can start off building your company email policy instantly.
This Article Contains:
(Click on the links below to go to a section of your choice)
- What is an Email Policy?
- Why do You Need an Email Policy?
- What Should You Address in Your Company Email Policy?
- A Sample Email Policy Template You Could Use
What is an Email Policy?
Note: These first few sections explain the basics of why you need an email policy and what goes into one. If you’re just looking for a sample policy template, click here to jump to that section.
An email policy is an official document that states everything employees need to know about dealing with office emails.
It covers several aspects like:
- Who the policy is for.
- Who has access to office email.
- What is classified as acceptable use and inappropriate communication in emails.
- Who has ownership over company emails.
- And much more.
An email policy sets down the law as to how a user should handle their official email accounts. Additionally, it also details guidelines over personal use of emails when operating with office email accounts. Most policies even state the consequences of violating the policy.
However, disciplinary actions don’t just apply to email policies – they’re important in the general running of your business, especially if you run a remote team.
So, if you’re looking to set up a strong remote work policy for your business, take a look at our guide here.
Why do You Need an Email Policy?
Enforcing a firm email policy can:
- Ensure that workplace and business communication remains professional and productive.
- Act as a legal hold to protect your business from legal liabilities and reputation damage.
- Prevent breaches of email security.
- Help employees understand the importance of following company email guidelines.
Remember, electronic mail policies can differ based on the communication needs of each business — so you can draft your email policy after considering your own unique business needs and how you need your team to act.
What Should You Address in Your Company Email Policy?
Now that we’ve covered the importance of an email policy for your business, here’s what your company email policy should cover:
1. Introduction to the Email Policy
The introduction explains the purpose of the policy to the reader. It describes the use of business emails and further clarifies the need for a strong email policy.
Remember, this is the first impression you give out to the reader regarding the email policy. If it’s too intimidating, an employee might be too scared to use office emails, but if it seems too relaxed – they might ignore your rules and guidelines.
Ensure that you clearly state the purpose of your policy and why a user needs to adhere to it.
2. Who Does the Email Policy Apply to? (Scope of the Policy)
In this section, you can detail which individuals are subjected to the rules, guidelines and disciplinary procedures of your policy.
Usually, the email policy applies to all employees, independent contractors and any other partners who are provided a corporate electronic mail address by the business.
3. What Should Emails be Used for? (Email Usage Guidelines)
In the usage guideline section, you can set out how a user should use the business mailbox. You can stress on adhering to email etiquette and corporate standards like logos, copyrights and email signatures.
Ensure that you warn staff about inappropriate use of language (this isn’t social media), and explain what they should do if they receive an inappropriate email.
Also, remember to advise employees on how to use the CC and BCC features to manage group emails effectively.
One more thing to remember is advising each user to avoid sharing sensitive information like usernames and passwords or other client-related or personal information over email.
4. Who Owns Company Emails? (Email Ownership and Privacy)
The email message ownership section explains that the business owns the work email messages and email systems.
It’s important to state that the company can access an employee’s work emails if needed. For example, if the company believes that an employee’s email service has been compromised, they have the right to restrict access immediately while they resolve the issue.
5. What is not Allowed? (Email Misuse and Abuse)
It’s essential that a user remembers to solely use their work email for company-approved activities.
This includes avoiding sharing inappropriate content or even sending out company-wide unsolicited emails through the office email service. It’s important to explicitly state which type of emails are allowed to be sent out to a recipient, and which aren’t allowed in your policy.
This allows you to protect your company from liability in case of any illegal activities. Remember to state that your email content shouldn’t:
- Contain harassing messages.
- Be offensive in nature.
- Be unsolicited chain letters (spam) sent to coworkers and third parties.
- Include discriminative language or content.
Something to remember is also to encourage each email user to report any inappropriate emails they receive before moving them to the junk mail folder. You can then investigate such incoming emails and put a stop to them.
6. Which Emails Should be Retained? (Email Retention and Backup)
It’s important to also decide on a records management plan to deal with all incoming mail. This way, you can choose what types of email communications your staff should retain in their computer system, and which emails they can delete.
Your policy should clearly explain which emails are “record” and which are “no-record.” You also need to set storage limits for email message backups to ensure that your systems don’t get overloaded.
Remember, when you backup emails in bulk, and the system overloads, you may not be able to retrieve individual emails from each account. That’s why it’s important to plan your backing up and retrieval procedure well ahead of time.
7. How Can You Remain Secure on Email? (Email Security)
The email security and data protection sections are some of the most important topics that should be covered in your policy. If email security isn’t properly managed, your team members can fall prey to phishing attacks.
These are emails that look like they originate from a legit source, but are actually scams designed to steal private information. Even your business’ sites and tools can be affected by hackers as a result of phishing.
Advise your employees to change their passwords often and warn them about the risks of sending out personal details via email. Tell them to inform management if they suspect an email to include malware or a phishing attack.
8. Can You Use the Office Email Address for Personal Reasons?
Though business email is meant for official purposes, many companies still allow employees to use their work email accounts for limited personal message use.
After all, you can’t expect your staff to know each others’ personal email addresses, right?
So decide what kind of personal emails are allowed on your company email accounts. You can choose to allow non-recurring or non-regular emails from employees to their friends from work.
9. When Should You Limit Using Email? (Work-Life Balance)
This section is not essential for an email policy, but it’s always good to let your staff understand that you care about their wellbeing.
Improvements in technology have blurred the line between work and personal life. It’s now common to find staff working till late or sending out emails at 2 AM from their mobile device. However, it’s not healthy for your employees – and it can negatively affect productivity in the long run.
Remember to state in the policy that employees should limit email sending emails during after-work or vacations. This way, they’ll get to enjoy their personal lives better and become more productive.
If you want to learn more about work-life balance and help employees avoid burnout, click here.
10. What Happens When You Don’t Follow the Email Policy? (Consequences of Noncompliance)
To prevent your employees from taking the policy lightly, enact specific repercussions for violation of the policy.
It could be something like a day’s suspension with pay, or something more serious like a pay cut. This will discourage your employees from straying away from the company email policy.
Also, remember to include a mention of who your employees can contact for any clarifications regarding the policy. This will prevent accidental violations of the email policy.
Lastly, ensure that all of your employees are aware of what’s mentioned in the policy. Make it available on a general electronic communication channel, or if you run a brick-and-mortar office, keep it pinned on a noticeboard. This way, employees will have no excuse but to adhere to your business’ email policy.
A Sample Email Policy Template You Could Use
Now let’s see what a sample email policy looks like:
(A downloadable version of this policy is available at the end of this section)
Purpose of the Policy
The purpose of this policy is to help employees identify the appropriate use of emails. Through this policy, we expect our employees to understand their limitations when using the work email address.
This policy will further allow us to protect company data from being subjected to unauthorized access.
This email policy applies to each employee, consultant and partner who is assigned a company email address (eg: email@example.com). This policy applies to individual as well as departmental email accounts (eg: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Elements of the Policy
All forms of email sent, received and archived using a company email address belongs to the company. The management at any time has the right to access, change or delete email messages without prior notice. Employees must maintain no expectation of privacy when using company email addresses.
Appropriate Email Usage
Employees can use their corporate email addresses for work purposes without any access restriction. Some examples of business purposes include:
- Official communication with customers, prospects, partners and vendors.
- Provide the work email address to potential business contacts met at corporate events.
- Log in to a company-owned software.
- Sign up for any platforms that will enable professional growth.
Abuse of Policy and Inappropriate Email Usage
An employee will be found guilty of abusing the email policy at any given time if they:
- Use the work email address for illegal, disreputable and unethical reasons.
- Send out unauthorized emails.
- Send out offensive and discriminatory messages.
- Sign up for any service offered by competitors without authorization.
- Spam coworkers and third parties intentionally.
Personal Use of the Corporate Email Address
Employees have limited access to their corporate email address for personal reasons. Some of these limited reasons include:
- Signing up for classes and seminars or any other event that will help in their professional development.
- Send out emails to friends and family members, provided that they do not spam or disclose sensitive/confidential information.
- Downloading appropriate electronic material from legitimate sources for personal and/or professional development.
Emails can often come under cyberattacks like phishing that can compromise the company’s reputation. To prevent the risk of cyberattacks, each account holder must:
- Use strong passwords that include a mix of capital and simple letters, numbers and symbols.
- Use secure software to store passwords safely for future reference.
- Change email passwords on a regular basis.
Employees must also be vigilant of unusual emails that may be malicious. Employees are advised to:
- Avoid clicking on links and opening attachments from sources they do not trust.
- Be aware of sensationalized attachments (eg: You won’t believe what you see in this video!)
- Be suspicious of titles that look like clickbait.
- Ensure unknown senders are legitimate.
- Look for red flags (e.g. poor grammar, unusually high numbers of exclamation marks or capital letters)
If an employee is unsure of a received email, they can consult the Information Technology (IT) team. We would also like to remind employees to keep their built-in anti-virus software updated.
Employees are encouraged to use an email signature that signifies the professionalism of our company. If your role requires you to represent our company to outsiders, be mindful of your email signature and email signoff.
Here’s what an email signature should look like:
[Name of Employee]
[Title of Employee], [Company Name With Link]
[Phone Number], [Company Address]
Employees are also allowed to use the company logo in their email signature. They can ask for the guidelines to do so from the human resource and corporate communications manager.
Consequences for Being Non-Compliant
Employees who don’t follow the guidelines mentioned above can be subjected to disciplinary action including but not limited to:
- Suspension without pay.
- A fine.
- Termination of employment.
Disclaimer: This template we’ve mentioned is only meant to provide a general guide, and can only be used as a reference. This template may not account for local, state or federal laws and other applicable laws, and should not be considered a legal document. Neither the author nor Time Doctor will assume any legal liability that may arise from the use of this sample email policy.
Download this policy:
Using an email policy at the office can save you from a ton of headaches when dealing with employees.
It may seem complicated at first, but drafting an email policy isn’t something that needs a lot of work. Just follow the tips we’ve mentioned here to understand why an email policy is important, and how to create an effective one.
Once you do, you’ll have a comprehensive email policy that keeps your employee’s work email accounts ordered and secured.
Liam Martin is a co-founder of Time Doctor—a time tracking and productivity monitoring software designed for tracking hours and productivity of remote teams.