As consumer awareness of the use of e-mail in business becomes a bigger issue, affecting not only the marketing department, many businesses are getting tougher on employees who abuse or violate company e-mail policies, with 22% of employers in the US having fired staff for policy violations, according to a recent survey.
The new '2003 e-mail rules, policies and practices' survey from American Management Association, Clearswift and The e-Policy Institute revealed that 52% of US companies already monitor incoming and outgoing e-mails, while 19% monitor internal e-mail communications between employees.
While 40% of employers say they use software systems to control employees' written e-mail content, 22% have actually fired employees for violating e-mail policy.
Most have policies
Out of more than 1,100 employers that participated in the survey, 75% said they have written e-mail policies in place, and 34% have e-mail retention and deletion policies in place.
But only 48% of organisations said that they take steps to educate their employees about the risks associated with e-mail, and to ensure that they understand the company's e-mail policy. Moreover, only 27% said they educate employees about guidelines for e-mail retention and deletion.
Legalities and losses
Some 14% said they have had employee e-mail subpoenaed by a court or regulatory body, which represents a 5 percentage point increase over 2001, when only 9% of respondents reported employee e-mail had been subpoenaed.
A surprisingly high 5% of employers indicated that they had fought a lawsuit triggered by employee e-mail, while 76% of e-mail end users have lost work time in the past year due to e-mail system problems. Of those, 35% estimated that they lost only half a day, while 24% thought they had lost more than two days over the year.
According to the study, the average e-mail end user spends approximately 25% of their working day on e-mail, although a slim 8% of users claim to spend more than four hours per day on e-mail.
And when it comes to the thorny issue of 'spam' (unsolicited or irrelevant e-mail), 92% of the survey's respondents said they receive spam at work. Almost half (47%) said that spam makes up over 10% of all their e-mail, while 7% report that spam accounts for more than half of all e-mail received.
The 2003 e-mail survey was a follow-up to an earlier study conducted by American Management Association and The e-Policy Institute in 2001. A complete copy of the survey can be obtained by contacting The e-Policy Institute.