Email usage policy, often known as email policy refers to the rules and regulations that an organization mandates its users to follow while using their business email address. Members of an organization should abide by the guidelines set in the email policy whenever they send emails from their corporate email address. Email usage policy will vary from one organization to another based on the business type, region, etc. This page details the generic terms and conditions which an email usage policy should contain.
It is a known fact that email has become the most sought-after mode of business communication. While it is a boon to use emails for professional communications, cyber attackers use this as an opportunity to steal sensitive business data and make huge money. Having a proper email policy helps organizations in many ways. To mention a few:
Safeguard brand reputation
Sharing inappropriate content via email using your organization's email domain will reduce your domain reputation which in turn could affect your business. Having a stringent email usage policy helps to make sure that all emails are sent as per the policy. Include a note in the policy stating that emails are monitored by administrators to safeguard brand reputation.
Protection from legal liabilities
Enforcing a strict email usage policy helps to achieve positive and productive communication. Keeping users informed and sending emails as per the rules laid down in the policy ensures that your organization does not violate the industry and state laws. This reduces the risk of litigations, legal issues or liabilities against your business.
Securing email communications
Emails are prone to several cyber threats such as spam, spoofing, phishing, etc. Businesses that have a clear and precise email usage policy increase the users' confidence while communicating with their customers and prospective leads especially when there is a requirement to share sensitive data. The risk of data theft, accounts getting hacked, possibility of Business Email Compromise can all be avoided by following the email policy.
Organizations, just like having any other policy, should specify their email usage policy outlining the authorized and unauthorized email usage by users. As part of the onboarding process, employers should ensure that a user reads and signs the email policy. This way, users are made aware of the do(s) and don't(s) while sending an email to their customer or even within the organization.
Based on the organization's requirements, administrators can manage the user's email usage via email restrictions and rules. Rules can be configured with various conditions such as to validate the email content, scan any unsafe links, attachments or images, etc. Emails that satisfy these conditions can be moderated by admins before they are delivered to the recipients. This minimizes the possibility of illegal or inappropriate data sent using your business email thereby increasing the brand reputation.
All these can be included in the policy document for user awareness. It now becomes the user's responsibility to comply with the email usage policy of the organization.
Email usage policies are tailor-made for each organization's needs based on the region they operate, the industry they belong to, etc. However, some of the standard sections in an email usage policy are given below:
Email policy guidelines should commence with an introduction followed by the scope of the policy as to whom it applies to (employees within the organization, contract staff, etc.). It should be precise and clear so that it can be understood by everyone be it a technical or non-technical user.
Business emails are intended for certain purposes which include but are not limited to:
- Collaborate within teams and with customers
- Follow-up with leads/ prospects
- Sharing official email address only with intended people (customers, partners met at an event, subscribing to relevant newsletters, and so on)
Include the unacceptable email usage which users are not allowed to perform using their corporate email account. Users should not use their official email address for the following purposes:
- Sending illegal information to customers/ within the organization
- Posting sensitive information on open forums or sharing with competitors
- Spamming a user's mailbox on purpose
- Sending false information about the company which might torment the brand's reputation.
Emails often contain sensitive data which needs protection from unauthorized usage. The consequences of a data breach or account compromise can be unimaginable. Defining appropriate security norms is vital to ensure emails are safe from the hands of cyber-criminals. It is a good practice to educate users and mention the below points in the email usage policy:
- Using appropriate email encryption techniques while sending emails
- The org-wide anti-spam settings/ rules
- Training users about phishing and spoofing attacks
- The necessity to report suspicious emails and not to click any links or open attachments within such emails
- Creating strong passwords and reset them periodically
- Usage of approved cloud-based vaults to store passwords rather than writing them down on a sticky note
The email usage policy educates users on their responsibilities and the importance of using their business email accounts appropriately. Although email etiquette need not necessarily be a part of the email policy, organizations can describe the below generic guidelines to users in the policy:
- Using corporate email for personal use - Corporate email accounts are meant exclusively for business communications. However, organizations can allow users to use their official email account for their personal requirements with certain restrictions. It is advisable to define the limitations of personal usage in the policy.
- Display professionalism while sending emails - Having templates for email signatures and disclaimers helps the email to appear professional and provide a personal touch to customers and leads.
- Acknowledgement and timely response - The most important aspect of customer satisfaction is to acknowledge all the received emails. Users should respond to emails (internal and external) within a specified timeline.
The compliance regulatory authorities demand businesses to retain emails for a certain period based on the location and type of business. Ensure your email usage policy outlines the details about email retention to educate users that their data is being retained in a backup portal. It is recommended that administrators enable eDiscovery for the entire organization and configure a retention policy to stay in line with the email usage policy.
An email sent to a huge recipient list is called a bulk email. Newsletters, what's new, announcements, etc. are some examples of bulk email. Ensure to keep users informed about the approved email usage policy as depicted by your service provider. Follow the below tips when your business requires bulk emailing.
- Specify the appropriate email service to be used for specific needs such as transactional emails, campaigns, etc
- The policy shall mention the requirement to receive double opt-in/ privacy consent from those users who subscribe to your emails
- Include an unsubscribe link in the emails you send
- Maintain the subscribed and unsubscribed user list
Policies enforced by businesses will not be effective unless they are made mandatory and the users are informed about the consequences of breaching the email usage policy. Specify the disciplinary actions as per your oraganization's values and culture as well as the local government laws. Pay cuts, suspension or termination from work are some of the disciplinary actions which most companies mention in their email policy's non-compliance section.