This article was originally published in the Jul/Aug 2007 edition of The Agent Newsline, a publication of Westfield Insurance.

Are personal e-mail accounts acceptable for work? What are the advantages and disadvantages to your agency? The lines between personal and professional life often become increasingly blurring. One of the advantages of allowing personal use can be that a few minutes to check e-mail during a lunch break can help staff feel connected and productive for the rest of the day.

Keeping personal e-mail accounts separate from work e-mail accounts can have some real advantages for your agency.

  • First, it helps to keep business and personal issues separate. Work is completed on the employee’s official e-mail account, and they can talk to family and do their Internet shopping via the personal account.
  • Second, it keeps a lot of the spam messages out of your agency e-mail box. Spammers can find you in lots of different ways but some of the most common involve scanning internet chats and shopping sites for e-mail addresses. If you use a work e-mail address and the spammers find you, they can rapidly invest the account – and you can’t easily change it because that’s were customers expect to find you. In addition, if you use one of the free web-based services like Hotmail or Yahoo and the spam gets too bad, you can always abandon the account and open a new account.
  • Third, if set up correctly, it’s portable. When you’re no longer an active employee, you will lose the companyprovided e-mail address. A personal address provides continuity during your transition. If you use one of the web-based services, you’re not even dependent on your personal Internet service provider.

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • A good rule of thumb to follow is to not allow use of a personal e-mail account for work-related communication. Customers and coworkers expect us to communicate through a consistent channel. In these days of spam and e-mail spoofing, messages from any address other than your regular domain will be met with justifiable suspicion.
  • Make sure that you tell employees that you retain the right to monitor personal e-mail if they check it on a work computer. Employees have no right to an expectation of privacy in anything they do on a work computer or system.
  • Remind them that if they’re on your work computer, all the normal rules about professionalism and appropriate use still apply, even though it’s their "personal" account.

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