What to do with your emails
Email messages often have value as corporate records and are subject to the same legislation as records created in other formats, such as the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). A large proportion of everyday business is contained in email, and therefore should be managed and retained alongside records in other formats (paper correspondence, Word documents, etc.)
It is not desirable or in fact legal, in terms of FIPPA, to keep all email messages indefinitely. Conversely, if emails that should be kept are not identified, the college could lose important information assets that form part of the college’s knowledge base. The legitimacy of email evidence is more likely to be accepted if the management of information created and received as email messages have been carried out in accordance with standardized comprehensive guidelines.
Short Term and Transitory Emails
Not all email messages are worthy of retention. Examples of messages which do not have corporate value as records are:
- Non-work related messages – relating to private communications
- Social communications such as lunch dates, leaving events
- Messages received from discussion lists
- Unsolicited promotional material;
These should be deleted or forwarded to personal e-mail accounts if required. Some records will have only a transitory value and should be kept only in the short term. While these affect college business, they do not need to be retained for business purposes in the longer term and can be deleted as soon as they are not needed regularly. Examples of short-term records include:
- Records for information – staff on duty, holiday notices
- Invitations and responses to work-related events
- Transitory correspondence produced for informational purposes – notice of holidays, thanks for the information, etc.
- Meeting notices and arrangements
- Copies of reports
- Copies of newsletters
- Advertising material available publicly;
- Cover letters – “please find attached” etc.
- Convenience copies of messages retained for ease of access and reference value
- Internal e-mail messages received as cc or bcc messages.
These should be deleted once initial action has been taken.
Some email messages must be kept as corporate records. If a message contains both personal and corporate information, the message should be considered to have corporate value.
Examples of emails with value as corporate records can include:
- An email expressing approval of action or decision
- Direction for important action or decision
- External business correspondence
- An email which could be used to justify the decision-making process
- Emails which set policy precedents
The retention period for email messages in this category is the same as with paper/hard copy records. Storage and Filing of “Record” Emails
Emails which are records, or which are necessary to be shared with colleagues, should be filed alongside other documents in their business context. Therefore, if the main file is paper-based, then relevant emails should be printed and added to it. If the main file is on a shared server area, emails should be saved to that area. If the main documents of an activity are solely emails, then they may be retained in the Outlook system.
Printing “record” emails are useful when working files need all information to be kept together, or when emails need to be kept in the longer term (5 years plus).
If using this method, then ensure the following descriptive information is printed without alteration:
- The sender of the email
- Recipients (including carbon copy recipients)
- Date / Time of transmission or receipt
- Avoid printing out documents sent for information only and cc’d documents
Reviewing and Deleting Emails
It should be possible to keep very short-term emails in your inbox and delete them immediately after action without filing them. Emails Kept for Personal Reference
- Keep in folders under inbox
- Decide on the retention period for emails in each folder (e.g. 2 months for organizing meetings; 1 year for enquiries, etc.)
It is very important to set aside time to manage and delete your email. Ideally, your inbox and sent items should both be reviewed daily and actioned emails deleted or moved to a folder. This prevents the development of backlogs which are time-consuming and difficult to deal with.
If you have any questions, please get in touch with our Archivist, Clay Thibodeau:
Tel: (416) 415-5000 Ext. 4771
Fax: 416-415-4772 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org