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Can You Ever Get Personal with Your E-Mails at Work? September 27, 2008

Posted by dapinoyemployee in Da Pinoy Employee, Working with Bosses and Officemates.
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When it comes to electronic mails, there is a fine line that separates work and personal communications.  In most cases, there are few problems regarding this issue, particularly if you work for a company that doesn’t really mind if you use your company e-mail to receive personal mails.  WZ, a company I used to work with, had this policy.  The IT department just didn’t care how many personal e-mails got sent to its employees as long as the online interaction didn’t interfere with the work.

My next company didn’t feel the same way.  The IT department imposed a strict policy on incoming e-mails from external sources (friends, ex-colleagues, former bosses, classmates, potential employers 🙂 etc.).  They even restricted the size of the files that came in. 

In many ways, it was helpful in that it controlled those cutesy but annoying slideshows running on Powerpoint that inevitably got forwarded endlessly around the office.  It also minimized the risk of our servers getting infected.  Unfortunately, it also left you at the mercy of the IT department.  So how personal is personal?

First things first: you’re not at home.
You’re in a place of business.  Show your employer the respect they deserve.  That computer is not your own — it is owned by the company.  You are provided with company e-mail so you can communicate with colleagues, superiors, clients and suppliers.  That’s the main purpose of your work e-mail — not to use to send your new baby pics to grandma, invite people to your blog or send alerts to friends about your party next weekend.

In other words, you really can’t hope to use your work e-mail for personal stuff because it’s not appropriate and it’s just not yours to utilize as you wish.

Second, your bosses may have a strict policy regarding e-mail use.
Check your company policy handbook to find out to what extent you can use your work e-mail for personal things.  Or you could talk to your IT department about it.  They may, like the IT guys I worked with, have concerns regarding safety and security issues.  Keeping malware at bay is getting tougher these days so it would really be considerate of you to just simply follow whatever policies are in place.

And yes, since you’ll be using their computer, your employers have the right to find out and know what’s going on by monitoring your usage.

Third, why are you reading personal e-mails during work anyway?
Short personal e-mails are probably all right but what about that loooonnngggg e-mail your BFF sent you detailing her most recent breakup and subsequent depression?  You really don’t need the distraction, especially if there’s a deadline to meet.  Best close that message or forward it to your personal e-mail account so you could read it at home or elsewhere.

Fourth, would you really be comfortable reading personal mails when your boss is hovering over your shoulder?
You don’t want your boss to spy on you, right?  Don’t give him a reason to.  Use your personal e-mail address for personal communications and your work e-mail for work-related stuff.  That way, there’s no need to panic about hitting the ‘close’ button just so your boss won’t catch a glimpse of that photo of you and your friends during a drunken night on the town.

Fifth, try a way around the system.
Not sure if this is already available here but I read about a flash drive you could hook onto your USB port that lets you use a separate browser.  That way, all your personal surfing activities can’t be detected.



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