Email Abuse – The Great Time Waster

Email abuse: This article deals with email misuse at the workplace.

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Reasons and solutions to this problem are discussed.

Email is an excellent communication tool and has revolutionized the way in which we communicate with each other.

However, it can also waste a lot of precious time, especially in the workplace environment.

As a rule, in the working environment, email should strictly be used for workplace communications.

Most big companies have policies and procedures in place that outlines internet and email usage. Unfortunately, email abuse can still happen and waste a lot of productive time.

Why would anyone abuse email? Non-work related email normally contains jokes, greeting cards, funny pictures, surveys, etc. Some of these emails are extremely good and could be quite beneficial. It can cheer you up or provide excellent advice and content. It would be a shame to miss out on those. Who could blame the employee?

Unfortunately, most of these non-work related emails are useless and that is where the problem starts. In order to find those rare treasures, you have to open and read each and every email received. If a high volume of email is received, it can waste at least an hour or more of productive working time per day.

Add up the numbers and you can quickly see how this can become extremely detrimental to your business. There could also be hidden costs associated with email viruses that could lead to loss of important data or unnecessary network downtime.

Common reasons for email abuse by employees can include boredom, frustration, laziness, management problems etc. However, one of the biggest reasons could be addiction. Even star performers can become addicted. They are still outperforming other employees, but are wasting valuable time with useless email.

The problem of email misuse can escalate if a manager participates in this and forwards interesting emails to certain employees. What kind of message does he send out?

That it is all right to send out non-work related email here and there? This is certainly not recommended as it encourages email misuse and can also lead to a decline in employee morale, especially if others are punished for doing this.

So, what can be done to minimize email misuse? There are quite a few steps that can be taken in order to reduce this. Some companies have set up email filters to filter out unwanted emails, especially those that contain attachments.

While email filters are effective to a certain degree, this does not solve the problem entirely. Filters can block legitimate email and unnecessary email can still get through the filters.

Policies and procedures regarding email misuse should be in place and clearly state the consequences of not complying. As stated earlier, managers should also avoid sending out non-work related emails.

Even one such an email is one email too many. Random spot checks on personal computers could also be conducted.

It is preferable that managers personally communicate the dangers involved in email abuse, such as viruses, addiction and the detrimental effect it could have on the company bottom line due to wasted man-hours. Ensure that when appropriate action is taken against offenders, everyone gets treated the same.

How would you know if email abuse occurs within a company? Signs such as viruses spreading like wild fires and decreased employee output could give an indication.

 If these signs are not present and you suspect that there might be some email misuse, you could consider the installation of computer monitoring programs, which will monitor and record everything that is happening on a given computer. This PC surveillance package is also designed with the employer in mind. 

An added advantage of having computer monitoring software installed is that it will provide the necessary evidence needed to take appropriate action against an offender. It should also improve security, productivity and reduce employee misbehavior.

Should you decide to install computer monitoring software to monitor your employees’ internet and email use, it is recommended that you clearly communicate and disclose what you are doing and why you are doing it, due to privacy infringement reasons. Employee morale can be lowered if this is not communicated effectively.

Email abuse at the workplace could be detrimental to a company and its employees if not dealt with effectively.