I am beginning to get really annoyed when someone asks me to send personal e-mails to them using their business address.  Of course, this practice has existed every since e-mail started, but after years of relatively wide Internet use and the plethora of free e-mail services (think Yahoo!, Gmail, MSN, etc.), I wonder why some people still mainly use their current work e-mail account.

My biggest concern is expectation of privacy.  While privacy laws and organizational policies are relevant in this discussion, I don’t think it is worth discussing them in detail.  Basically, when an organization provides an employee with an e-mail address, the organization’s infrastructure and resources support that account.  Thus, it seems reasonable to assume that they have a right to ensure that the account is used appropriately.  I am willing to bet that none of my employers have ever checked my accounts (other than for high level data like memory usage), but I like to act as if my employer is monitoring my e-mail.  Most employers probably won’t mind an occasional personal use, but the account is meant for business purposes. 

Further, even though I should always conduct myself in a way that reflects positively on my company and enables me to fulfill my work duties in a professional manner, my personal life is not my company’s business, and I want to control any overlapping.  For instance, I usually don’t mind speaking about my weekend plans with my colleagues, but that is something I can control.  By using my work e-mail account for personal matters, that further blurs the line since I cannot control how my company monitors my e-mail account.  What I find the most annoying is when people I interact with force me to use their work e-mail account.  So, even though I am not using my work account, my personal life is blurring with another person’s company.  Now, their company can read about aspects of my personal life. 

Some people may fret that using a third party like Yahoo! or Google opens one up to those organizations.  True, but those providers have in most cases much more account holders than most organizations do, provide a service for general use, and do not have a major stake in monitoring the account usage of an individual user (unlike in an employer-employee relationship). 

Additionally, there is a chance – however remote – that any e-mail account will get hacked.  So, in the majority of cases, I think that any additional vigilance their employer may exercise to protect e-mail accounts should not factor heavily in a decision to rely upon one’s work e-mail account.

Another risk involved with using work e-mail for personal purposes is that recipient list mistakes do happen.  I’ll change the facts to protect the innocent, but once I was cc’ed on an e-mail related to an community organization matter.  I’m still scratching my head on trying to figure out why the San Francisco branch manager was cc’ed as well…

Further, what happens when one of my acquaintances changes jobs?  Will they inform me of their NEW e-mail address?  That is one advantage to using another e-mail service like Gmail and Yahoo! Mail; one can keep the same e-mail address when they change jobs.

In sum, using one’s work e-mail for most of their personal needs is getting annoying.  Are there any compelling reasons to use one’s work e-mail account for personal reasons?