Three Reasons to Keep Separate Work and Personal Email Addresses

Three ReasonsYes, I know: I already recommended keeping separate work and personal email addresses as a way to maintain work-life balance. But I feel so strongly about this particular issue that I felt it deserved its own post. If you don’t already keep separate accounts for work and for your personal email, start now.

Here’s why:

1. It helps you avoid embarrassing mistakes.

The two email clients I use–Outlook and Gmail–both autopopulate email addresses based on the first few letters I type. It’s so easy to fall into the habit of typing just the first few letters of someone’s address and not double-checking that the right recipient is selected. So easy. (I assume this is why my colleague whose name is also Amy B and I get so many of each other’s emails.)

I only did this once or twice with colleagues who had similar names before I learned to always check that I had the right recipient. But I am very grateful that at least these mistakes were confined to the universe of my colleagues. The errors would have been much more embarrassing if I had sent a friend a work email, or my boss an email intended for a friend.

Worse, mixing personal and work email accounts increases the opportunity to let confidential information out of your company. Depending on what my emails say, sending them to a friend by accident could range from mildly regrettable to a fireable offense. Keeping my accounts separate helps protect me from this happening.

2. It is practical.

Let’s say someone offers you your dream job tomorrow, and you decide to quit your current job to pursue it. If you’re using your work email account for personal business, now in addition to all of the red tape of leaving a company, you also have to deal with updating logins, alerting friends to a new address, and hoping you don’t miss anything important from anyone you forgot to tell.

This situation is even worse if you’ve left a company for negative reasons such as a layoff. You may not have adequate time to switch your personal information out of your work account before it’s de-activated. And it would just feel crappy to have to tell so many people about your new status all at once.

You see where I’m going with this: Open a free personal email account somewhere (I like Gmail) and use it for your personal stuff.

3. It gives you more control over the boundaries between work and home.

This is where I was going in my previous post. I think it is important to keep some portion of your time for non-work activity, whether it’s to enjoy family and friends, spend time indulging in hobbies, or just recharging. If being online is part of your relaxation activity, you don’t want to expose yourself to work emails in your downtime. Keeping your accounts separate lets you consciously choose whether or not you want to see work emails without preventing you from using email to catch up with friends, handle household bills, or exchange photos with faraway family members.

In my case, I even disconnected my work email access from my phone. Why? I tend to look at my phone while I’m watching tv or just sitting around, and I don’t want to be distracted with business when I’m not in work mode. I also bring my phone with me on vacation, and I strongly believe that vacations are for taking a break. So I make it harder for myself to access my work email on my phone.

Do you keep two (or more) separate email accounts? Why or why not? What works for you?

5 thoughts on “Three Reasons to Keep Separate Work and Personal Email Addresses

  1. I definitely keep separate personal and work accounts, and I don’t really share work accounts with family or vice-versa. But I do have my work accounts on my personal mobile devices. To me, it’s a conscious choice to pay the costs (people know I can get my email anywhere) and reap the benefits (I can be away from my physical desk but still “at work”). That flexibility is something I value far more than I dislike looking at the occasional work email after hours.

  2. Do people under the age of 50 really have this issue?

    I keep three acounts, one for personal communication, one for work and one for spam.

    Like Andrew, I do have access to work email on my personal phone. That is mostly so I don’t have to carry two devices around with me.

    ps. nice blog, Amy!

    1. Thanks, Joe!

      I know some people who use only their work email address for everything. At least one of them is well under 50. It’s always struck me as weird.

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