Should You Ever Ban Personal Email at Work?  


A few years ago, locking down the company network was relatively straightforward. The system administrator could simply apply security policies that would prevent access to unauthorized sites.

Nowadays, it’s not quite that simple. Mobile devices are commonplace in 2014, and employees naturally bring their own smartphones and tablets to work. These devices normally have unrestricted access to the internet. If they run over 3G or 4G, open access is a certainty.

Many people have circumvented the rules in a bid to access whatever they want at work. This includes their personal email account. But could there ever be a good reason for wanting to check your Gmail at work – and could the business be hindering progress by limiting access to personal email?

When Personal Email Isn’t Always Personal

Accessing the web at work was always seen as a time wasting exercise – something you could get away with on a Friday afternoon. The company needs to prevent that from happening. While it seems unfair sometimes, it’s perfectly understandable that the business protects its return on investment when it comes to hiring the right people, and that may well mean blocking access to Facebook. Likewise, you’d think that personal email accounts could only really serve as a distraction. But, in many cases, you’d be wrong.

In a recent Mimecast email security report, around 71 per cent of workers claim to be aware of the reasons why the use of personal email is restricted in the office, yet many of them feel that they need to use it anyway. They’re willing to risk the repercussions to do so.

One of the biggest reasons personnel log onto webmail accounts is to achieve something they can’t achieve using the corporate email system, and that’s perceived to be a worthwhile risk.

The Size of the Problem

When users become familiar with a particular system, they struggle to revert back to a more limited way of doing things. Personal email accounts tend to offer larger capacity mailboxes, as well as an improved capability for large attachments. These two issues are perhaps the biggest source of frustration for people who are trying to use email to get the job done. If you know your Gmail account does something your work email account can’t do, how can you resist using it?

Overall, 79 per cent of respondents to the Mimecast survey said that they had used personal email accounts for work purposes. Some of the biggest reasons were size limits (39 per cent) or a lack of information about the storage space on their account (80 per cent). More than half said they had frequent problems using work email facilities.

Turning It Around

The research quoted above suggests that corporate email systems don’t offer people what they really need: convenience, space and control. For this reason, employees are being forced to come up with workarounds to get the job done.

If businesses are to prevent personal access to email at work, they simply have to provide a viable alternative. The work email system must offer scalable mailboxes and the ability to send large files. This is perfectly proven by the respondents’ views: 40 per cent said that a ‘bottomless’ mailbox would prevent their use of personal email accounts in the office.

Whatever the solution, the business simply must act to ensure its staff have the tools they need to do the job properly. Otherwise, Generation Gmail will always fall back on its use of personal email.

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