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Small Business Digest


Managing Employee Email Getting Trickier, More Litigation-Prone But Necessary

Many companies are starting to come to grips with the need to monitor employee email activity.

More importantly, there is a growing trend to discharge employees who abuse their email and other online activities.

Unfortunately, there is a surge in litigation associated with this trend.

The good news: e-mail inboxes can be uncluttered, productivity can be enhanced, and litigation risks can be reduced. All it takes is a commitment to strategic e-mail management, combining written policies, employee education and technology tools.

That's according to Nancy Flynn, Executive Director of The ePolicy Institute and author of the new book "E-Mail Management: 50 Tips for Keeping Your Inbox Under Control" (Thomson Learning, January 2007).

Among the tips Flynn offers workplace e-mail users:

Impose a Weekly E-Mail Ban. It sounds radical, but some companies have begun experimenting with a weekly "no e-mail day." A mandatory eight-hour break from e-mail. A "no e-mail day" forces employees to communicate by phone and in-person, facilitating valuable, one-on-one relationships in the process. Armed with management's permission to ignore e-mail, employees are free to concentrate on other projects without the constant interruption of e-mail.

Send Business Records Via RPost Registered E-mail. If you use e-mail to send business-critical, time-sensitive proposals, contracts, and legal documents, don't waste time phoning, faxing and sweating -- until you receive word that your message has arrived. When e-mail is important enough to warrant receipt confirmation, send it via RPost Registered E-mail® service. Registered E-mail messages by RPost ( provide the sender with an electronic receipt verifying e-mail message delivery, message content (including all attachments) and official time sent/received, and makes archiving and retrieving important messages fast and easy.

In light of the Amended Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Rules), effective December 1, 2006, the legal proof offered by RPost's Registered E-mail service is particularly important to businesses.

The Rules clarify that electronically stored information (ESI) is subject to discovery (may be used as evidence) in lawsuits.

According to the 2006 Workplace E-Mail, Instant Messaging & Blog Survey from American Management Association and ePolicy Institute, last year 24% of organizations had employee e-mail subpoenaed and another 15% went to court to battle lawsuits triggered by employee e-mail. 

Check E-Mail on Sunday to Jumpstart the Workweek. Do you dread Monday morning, knowing you'll face hundreds, perhaps thousands of e-mail messages that hit your inbox over the weekend?

Set aside time on Sunday to get a head start on the week's e-mail burden. Don't bother writing replies or composing new messages -- unless you're facing a Monday morning deadline. Use Sunday evening to empty your inbox of the clutter (spam, personal messages, copies, newsletters, etc.) that has amassed over the weekend. Time invested on Sunday will pay huge dividends including a cleaner inbox, more manageable workload and reduced stress level.

Save Personal E-Mail for Home. Fully 86% of employees engage in personal non-business-related e-mail at work, wasting the boss's time and computer resources. Increasingly, employers are fighting back, with 68% establishing policies governing personal e-mail use, and 26% firing workers for inappropriate e-mail use -- including excessive personal e-mail (American Management Association/ePolicy Institute research). The best advice: use the company system strictly for business-related correspondence, and save your personal e-mail for home.

Check E-Mail Less Often. Most e-mail programs allow you to control the rate at which messages automatically hit your inbox. If you set the automatic send/receive option to check e-mail every 5 minutes, you can count on 12 interruptions an hour, 96 distractions a day. Instead, consider setting the send/receive option to download new messages every 20 or 30 minutes -- perhaps less often if your business and the boss allow. Imagine how liberating it would be to establish a personal policy of reading and acting upon business e-mail just once in the late morning and once again at day's end.

Nancy Flynn

© 2018, Information Strategies, Inc.
P.O. Box 315, Ridgefield, NJ 07657