The use of email in the workplace has become prevalent, and in some cases, troublesome. According to a U.S. News article by Candice Novak, when asked how often they send or receive personal emails on the job, 14 percent of employees said "constantly." An additional 31 percent said "very often." Think of the productivity issues that presents. But productivity isn't the only concern--privacy issues are a concern as well.

Understand Policy Requirements

Most organizations have policies related to the appropriate use of email in the workplace. Make sure to check and be familiar with your organization's policy to ensure that you are not violating it. This applies to emails sent internally as well as externally, and sometimes even to emails sent during work time through your own personal devices. Common policy issues relate to the use of company email, with identifying company information, when sending personal messages, sharing information that might be considered proprietary and the discoverability of email messages during court proceedings--yes, everything you say can be used against you.

Keep Personal Use to a Minimum

As Novak indicates, personal use of email is prevalent in the workplace. Similar to the use of the work phone for personal reasons, you should strive to keep your use of email for personal matters to a minimum, and if you choose to use your email for personal messages, do so during permitted break times. The primary areas of concern for organizations related to this use revolve around both concerns over lost productivity and concerns about how the company name might be tied to messages that may be considered inappropriate (a similar concept to using the company's letterhead to send out a personal letter).

Recognize When Face-to-Face is a Better Option

While email has become a very easy-to-use option for communicating, it is not always the best option. Face-to-face communications, especially with colleagues in a business setting, is generally preferable and can help to avoid misunderstanding and strengthen interpersonal relationships. Emails can work well for conveying brief, factual information. When conveying information that may be subject to misunderstanding--or misinterpretation--though, it is generally best to pick up the phone or seek a face-to-face interaction. Email may later be used to document the discussion.

Be Aware of Some Important Areas for Missteps

Those new to the use of email can make some easy-to-correct missteps. Chief among them is sending a message in all upper case, which is viewed as "shouting." Another common--and embarrassing misstep--is using the "reply to all" option and mistakenly sending what may be a sensitive response to a group of people who have been blind carbon-copied on the message without your realization. Finally, be aware that what you say in writing can be misinterpreted; humor or sarcasm, in particular, is often difficult to discern.