Work emails versus personal emails: why employers must ensure the two are kept separate

All too often, employers, especially in the Caribbean, overlook employees using their personal emails for company work. Here we discuss a few reasons why this occurs.


Over the past several months, it is likely that many of us have been amused – or perhaps bemused – by the myriad of incidents that have been occurring in and around the United States White House. One of the most recent developments, which is under currently investigation, is the use of private email accounts for government-related activities.

For the senior government officials involved, they would be party to restricted and classified information, which must be tightly controlled. Hence, the use of unapproved private email accounts constitutes a major security breach, which could result in sanctions for those who contravened the rules.

Although we might appreciate the concerns of the United States Government on email access and security, quite frequently, we do not recognize that it should also be a concern for Caribbean employers and employees.

Employers provide inadequate email service

Quite often in the Caribbean, email communication appears to be an afterthought in many organisations. It is not unusual to find established businesses that have a website having Gmail email addresses, or similar from other third party email services, as their official email addresses, instead of having email accounts for each of their employees under their web domain.

Further, little or no considerations has been given to how email is to be used in the organization. Typically, only the organisation’s principal may able to access the company email account on his/her phone, but all other employees would only be able to access it whilst in office.

On the other hand, for organisations that provide their employees with email addresses under the corporate web domain, ease of access and reliability can be common challenges. As a result, and to get the job done, employees resort to using their personal email accounts to fulfil the organisation’s work.

Employees expected to accessible 24/7

Following from the previous point, and whilst virtually all countries worldwide have labour laws that prescribe working hours, thanks to technology which allows us to be connected all the time, increasingly, employees are expected to be on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Ultimately, work time/work life and personal time/personal life are getting blurred. Hence, it should come as no surprise that if corporate email accounts are unavailable or unreliable, especially if employees are away from the office but the work still needs to get done, using their personal email becomes an obvious solution.

Employers may not value their information/communication

Finally, although employers might be happy their work is getting done, regardless of whether employees use their personal email accounts to do so, they might not have given any thought to the value of the information and/or communication that is not resident on their corporate accounts. In circumstances when employees use their personal accounts for company business, a formal relationship is being forged between those employees and the clients – outside of the organisation. Moreover, such a relationship can easily continue even after employees are no longer with the organisation.

It also important to note that a serious concern when individuals exit an organisation is how much company information they take. If the information is already in their possession, thanks to a relaxed approach to use of their personal emails to do company work, then there should not be any expectation that such information would not be still available to them after they leave.


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