Implement Your Email policy at the Beginning!
When you are setting up a new email system for your organization, this is the best time to establish the parameters of your email policy.
What is the best mailbox size? Should I allow attachments? What is the best level of access to email? How should people archive old email? These (among many others) are the questions that you (as the administrator) should ask yourself.
Before you Create Your Email Policy
Before you start creating an email policy, do some investigation into already existing company policies in your industry, such as guidelines on writing business letters, access to confidential information, personal use of the telephone systems and sexual or racial harassment at work. It is important that your email policy is compatible with your company's existing policies. You will also need to decide whether your company is going to allow personal use of the email system, and if so, to what extent.
The email policy should be drafted with the help of human resources, IT and board of directors in order to reflect all viewpoints in the organization. It is also advisable to have several employees look at the policy and provide their feedback. Make sure that your policy is not so restrictive that it will compromise your employees morale and productivity.
What Should be Included in an Email Policy?
For the policy to be effective the document should use clear and simple wording and not to be longer than 3-4 pages. you cannot expect employees to read a long complicated document, since you want them to remember what it says. List short bullet points, so that an employee can easily find rules in case they are unsure.
Commercial: Guidelines on How to Write Effective E-mails.
1. Corporate email style (formal/informal). This could include guidelines on salutation and ending of messages.
2. What kind of signatures should be used? I.e. should they include company name, job function, telephone & fax number, address, web site and or a corporate slogan.
3. Expected time in which emails should be answered. For example, you could set a general rule that each email should be answered within at least 8 working hours, but 50% of emails should be answered within 4 hours.
4. How to determine which emails should receive priority.
5. When to send cc: or bcc: messages and what to do when you receive them.
6. How / when to forward email messages, and how you should handle forwarded messages.
Productivity: Rules on the Usage of the E-mail System.
1. Whether personal emails are accepted and if so, to what extent. For instance you could limit the amount of personal emails sent each day or you could require personal emails to be saved in a separate folder. You could also limit or eliminate certain email attachments from being sent or received and include rules on sending chain letters. Include examples and clear measures taken when these rules are breached.
2. Use of newsletters & group news. For instance you can require a user to request permission to subscribe to a newsletter or news group.
3. Warn users that they should not engage in non-business activities that unnecessarily tie up network traffic.
Legal: Prohibit Inappropriate Email Content and Warn of Risks.
1. Include a list of "Email Risks" to make users aware of the potential harmful effects of their actions. Advise users that sending an email is like sending a postcard: If you don't want it posted on the bulletin board them don't send it.
2. 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. State that employees who receive any e-mails with this content should report the matter to their supervisor immediately. Furthermore, mention that employees should not use e-mail to discuss competitors, potential acquisitions or mergers or to give their opinion about another firm. Unlawful messages, such as copyright infringing e-mails should also be prohibited. Include examples and clear measures taken when these rules are breached.
3. If you are going to monitor the content of your employees' emails, you must mention this in your email policy (In most countries/states you are allowed to monitor your employees' emails if your employees are made aware of this). Warn that employees should have no expectation of privacy in anything they create, store, send or receive on the company’s computer system and that any of their messages may be viewed without prior notice.
4. Finally, include a point of contact for questions arising from the email policy.
Publishing the Email policy
When you have formulated an email policy, you should make sure that all employees are aware of the policy. You can do this by handing out printed copies, publishing it on your intranet and including it in staff handbooks. Also, when a new employee starts at your company, this employee should be given a copy of the document as standard.
It is a good idea to include the most important points of the email policy in the employment contract, so that employees must sign that they have read, understand and acknowledge receipt of the policy. Cover the most important issues in the employment contract, such as the personal use of email, possible email monitoring, and the prohibition of defamatory, sexual and racist remarks in emails. Also expressly state that breach of these rules can lead to termination of employment.
Furthermore, you could organize email training to explain the email
risks to users and why the email policy is so important. If users
understand the potential threats, most of them will understand why the
rules need to be set up and will have less difficulty in applying them. A
training plan will also help you obtain feedback to ensure that the
policy is feasible and can actually be put into practice.
Updating the Email policy
Since developments in email and the Internet are changing rapidly, it is important to review the email policy at least once every quarter. Keep an eye on new developments in email and Internet law so that you are aware of any new regulations and opportunities. When you release new updates, it is preferable to have each user sign an acknowledgment of their receipt of the policy. A large portion of the above information can be found at http://www.emailreplies.com.
NOTE: The above information is intended ONLY as suggestions and guidelines that are not bonded by liability and/or legal actions of any kind.