November 28, 2005 (HOSTSEARCH.COM) A survey released in the United Kingdom this month by Cryoserver (a forensic email archiving and compliance company) has suggested that more than 90% of employees use office email to organize social life and send jokes.
Cryoserver surveyed UK employees from a range of industries and asked them about their non-work related email usage. Results indicated that half the employees questioned use work email for a number of non-work related purposes. These include discussing or organizing social life and weekend plans (98%), sending jokes and humorous emails (90%), making holiday plans (78%), conducting non-work related business (76%), organizing birthday parties and similar events (74%), discussing dinner plans (70%), discussing relationships and love life (64%) and discussing issues related to colleagues and co-workers (56%).
Although having an impact on productivity this seemingly harmless activity does raise a number of important issues for employers. If companies allow personal communications to take place over an office email system they face data protection issues. Under the UKs Data Protection Act 1998, organizations are required to protect any personal data held on their systems, and much of the information found in employee emails, is of a very personal nature. Email backups do not meet Data Protection requirements and as a result to fully comply with the law employers may be forced to install audit and compliance systems that store emails passing through their networks and record search requests made by authorized users.
"It is clear from this survey that a large number of companies are breaking regulations set under the Data Protection Act as well as suffering from lower productivity brought about by excessive use of personal email at work," said Paul Grossman, CEO of Cryoserver. "The only way organizations can achieve the necessary safeguards to allow them to retain emails yet still observe data protection rules, is to install a forensic audit and compliance system. The system complies with companies' data protection needs, and by making employees aware that their emails are being retained, provides an incentive to keep their personal emails to a minimum."