In practice email seems to fall into one of five functional categories. Both legal requirement and practicality suggest that these should be dealt with in different ways.
|Type of e-mail||records management approach|
|Core business records||Records which ought to be kept for an appropriate legal period and should be filed outside the email system with the other records to which they relate.|
|Emails containing personal data. eg, discussions about student progress, job applications, discussions of candidates||Firstly, is use of email appropriate or does the risk of interception or misdirected mail mean that other methods should be used? If email is used these are records which should be kept for an appropriate legal period and should be filed outside the email system with the other records to which they relate.|
|Short term reference eg, invitations to meetings||Need only be kept as long as it is current and then deleted.|
|Ephemeral, ie, not the master copy of the information being sent. Copies of documents downloaded from the institution’s website or intranet, emails from list-serve sites||Probably do not need to be retained at all once read as it almost certainly will continue to be available at its original site.|
|Personal email||Is it appropriate to use your work email address to send and receive them, or would it be better to set up a separate personal email account? Should be deleted once read.|
Creating and addressing emails – good practice
- Limit the number of main recipients to those who need to act or take decisions on message content
- Use ‘cc’ for information only
- Use ‘reply to all’ and ‘broadcast message’ sparingly – consider posting the information on the intranet; concentrate on one topic only per email
- Use clear and explicit subject lines
- Encourage the use of commonly understood prefixes on the ‘subject’ line such as keywords which can be set up on the master category list in Microsoft Outlook. This should help users to decide whether to delete the email, open immediately or file it and open later, for example:
- SOCIAL: night out next Wednesday
- FOR INFO: rail strike latest news
- FOR ALL MANAGERS: new appraiser course
- !URGENT!: Fire drill at 12.00
- Use message ‘flags’ to indicate the relative importance of the message (and only use ‘Important/Urgent’ sparingly).
- Focus on the topic of the email
- Indicate if no reply needed
- Make a business rule about whether to include the original text in a reply
- Do not annotate the original version or embed earlier messages in a current message
- If you are a member of JiscMail or other discussion email lists unsubscribe from them when you go on holiday otherwise you will send your ‘out of office’ reply to all other list users.
Managing your inbox
- Mirror personal folders on the folder structure in the shared area
- When each message is read for the first time, make a decision to save important information to folders then delete the email from your personal mailbox once copied into corporate file space
- Don’t use email for sending the content of documents in large attachments. Store documents for general use in a more reliable place such as a networked drive or an intranet
- Unsubscribe from mail groups eg, JiscMail lists you are no longer making use of
- Set up an automatic facility to empty messages from the deleted items folder when exiting the email system
- Set up rules to display messages addressed solely to you in a different colour to those where you are one of a number of people ‘copied in’
- Set up rules to automatically forward messages from particular contacts into folders relevant to the area they are involved with
- Allocate the last five minutes of every day to going through the emails you have sent and received that day that are still in your inbox/sent items. If possible try to file them all appropriately and leave with both empty.
See our guide on Managing your email
Read the National Archives' guidance on 'Managing digital records'