The answer: You can, but you MUST NOT.
In fact, you should never use it for any other purposes except for work related matters. Why? Some of you ask. You are curious as you have been using your company’s email address not only to apply jobs, but to disseminate unethical, and perhaps, unlawful information and materials. My answer is: You are not worried because you have not been a subject for disciplinary action, or have not come across a friend who gets a warning letter (or even terminated) due to improper email activities.
Well, yours truly have. An office mate of mine was handed a warning later after persistently forwarding high-graphic contents, which clogged the company’s server. Another 2 rounds of warnings and you are as good as done.
If you must know, the company can direct the IT team to monitor the staff’s email activities, and keep track of whatever information you have received, or sent. In fact, I know a number of companies which do exactly this. Last 2 weeks, a friend who works with an IT department of a well known GLC (Government Linked Company) discovered some unusual pornographic materials dissemination during his usual, email log routine check. The log detailed out who received, who and who sent the emails. And guess who were involved? A big clap to… A bunch of senior managers! Is this embarrassing or what?
The real problem comes when…
Those people who are checking out your email activities would discover what you’ve been up to lately (e.g. if you’re engaged with a headhunter, or sending resume to competitors) but perhaps do not say much or report to the management, unless specifically asked to. At most, they’ll probably send you email to ‘slow down’ your activity a bit, or tell you during the next day’s lunch hour (what are friends for then?). But the real problem comes when, for example, you hurt (either professionally or personally) your boss’ feelings or credibility. What if he or she decides to take a revenge on you and unearth your recent unhealthy email activities? Well, it will take only one phone call and a few clicks before you know your fate.
Look at your employment clause…
On what grounds my email activities can hurt me? Look at your employment contract again, and see if there is any clause that says something that ‘you shall not be involved in any activity, either personal or business-related activities which will present a conflict of interest with your duties’. You will be up for a tougher ground of actions if you’re involved in the sexual related emails and communication.
Think before you act. Use Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo and so forth for personal emails. The truth will set you free.