Using work email for personal reasons may be convenient, but you might actually be breaching your workplace's IT policy, or worse, sacrificing your personal privacy and workplace security. Separating our work and personal lives is generally a good rule and it should also apply to the way you use your email account.
Quite aside from what you should or shouldn't be doing on your computer during business hours, here's four reasons why signing up to websites, mailing lists and likewise with your work email address could land you and your company in trouble.
1. Policy & Privacy
Your workplace likely has an IT usage policy. This probably includes how you use your work email address. In many cases your work email address will likely remain the property of your employer, they may monitor or restrict its usage and you will have to completely surrender the account when you leave the business. This could mean your employer may know when you buy something of a personal nature or communicate with your solicitor or doctor via email. At the very least they'll see the account as representing the business, something to consider when signing up to a gaming or social website.
2. Passwords & Security
It's common to sign up to websites with the same password as your email account (which you really should try to avoid by the way). If that website becomes compromised, so does your work email account. After the recent Heartbleed bug and Catch of the Day breach this kind of risk is a real possibility.
Most of us don't stay in the same job forever. If you use the auto-login feature available in most browsers to store username and passwords, or list your work email address on accounts that are not frequently used (Superannuation accounts for example) it could be months or even years before you need to revisit them. If you've left your employer in the meantime, you may find that you have missed important correspondence or can't recover lost passwords. Using a personal email account keeps you in control and is a fail-safe in case something goes wrong.
Ending up on a spam mailing list isn't fun for your or your IT administrator. It can happen after buying something off an unscrupulous website that sells your email address or even having a friend you communicate with whose account is compromised. Whatever the case, your account could be flooded with spam emails, slowing your work email server. Imagine if this happened to everyone at your workplace.
& All the Rest
Chain mail, forwarding files, offensive emails, political emails & more. There are countless reasons but inevitably our work and personal email accounts serve different purposes and using them separately is probably your safest option.
Whether you're developing your company's IT policy or following it, consider these factors and question if the short term convenience of using your work email for personal purposes outweighs you and your employer's long term interests.