Privacy in Post Rooms and Personal Mail
The days of bosses dictating letters to their secretaries and the clattering of typing pools are largely behind us. Nowadays, most desk workers have their own computers and are capable of writing their own letters. In a large organisation, there will be plenty of letters flowing in and out, and it is important to ensure that these communications can be sent and received reliably and in confidence.
Incoming ItemsMost companies don’t object to their employees receiving some personal mail at work. This doesn’t add much of a burden to post room staff, and can be good for morale. For example, it can be convenient for office workers to have parcels delivered to their work address, to save them having to arrange for collection or redelivery of items that are too big for their letterboxes.
Employees receiving such items in the workplace have a right to expect that their privacy will be safeguarded. If a parcel or packet is signed for at reception, taken to the post room and then delivered to the employee, they should reasonably expect that it is not tampered with on the way. It should arrive unopened and in the same condition in which it was delivered to the building.
It is not just personal mail that requires privacy. The vast bulk of correspondence in an organisation will be related to its business, and some of this can be highly confidential. The internal postal system in a large organisation, where items are typically transferred in bulk between regional or international offices, needs to be just as secure as the external delivery infrastructure.
Secretaries and assistants may routinely open their bosses’ business correspondence, and may even filter out the unimportant items or respond to them themselves. They should not open any letters that have been marked as private, and managers should ensure that people sending them such letters know how to mark them appropriately. So that there is no confusion on either side, secretaries and assistants should have their duties spelled out in their terms of reference.
Outgoing ItemsStaff may wish to make use of the postal infrastructure in a business to send their own correspondence. This may simply save them a walk to the nearest post box, or perhaps the business will agree to paying the postage on a reasonable level of personal mail in the same way as they might pick up the bill for any telephone calls, printing or photocopying that are not work-related.
Workers need to have confidence that any post they submit into the system will remain private, and will be delivered to the recipient without being opened in transit. It is important that all staff respect the privacy of the postal system.
Abuse of the SystemIf administrative staff suspect that certain employees are abusing the system – for example, to get free postage on all their personal items by sending them through the work post room – then they should raise their concerns with someone from the human resources department or with the employee’s manager. They should not be tempted to intercept and open such mail in order to see if their hunch is correct!
Workers who routinely handle other people’s correspondence need specific training about privacy. They are in a position of trust, and need to understand fully the responsibility they have to ensure the safe transit of the communications that pass through their hands.