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  • Managing Your E-mail

    E-mail 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 e-mail, 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 e-mail messages indefinitely. Conversely, if e-mails (which should be kept) are not identified, GBC could lose important information assets which form part of the College’s knowledge base. The legitimacy of e-mail evidence is more likely to be acceptable if the management of information created and received as e-mail messages has been carried out in accordance with standard and comprehensive guidelines.

    Categories of E-mails

    Short Term and Transitory E-mails

    Not all e-mail 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 c.c. or b.c.c messages.

    These should be deleted once initial action has been taken.

    “Record” E-mails

    Some e-mail 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 e-mails with value as corporate records can include:

      • E-mail expressing approval of action or decision
      • Direction for important action or decision
      • External business correspondence
      • E-mail which could be used to justify decision making process
      • E-mails which set policy precedents

    The retention period for e-mail messages in this category is the same as with paper/hard copy records.

    Storage and Filing of “Record” E-mails

    E-mails 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 e-mails should be printed and added to it. If the main file is on a shared server area, e-mails should be saved to that area. If the main documents of an activity are solely e-mails, then they may be retained in the Outlook system.

    Printing “record” e-mails is useful when working files need all information to be kept together, or when e-mails 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:

      • Sender of the e-mail
      • Recipients (including carbon copy recipients)
      • Date / Time of Transmission or Receipt
      • Avoid printing out documents sent for information only and c.c.’d documents

    Reviewing and Deleting E-mails

    Short Term E-mails

    It should be possible to keep very short term e-mails in your inbox, and delete them immediately after action without filing them.

    E-mails Kept for Personal Reference

      • Keep in folders under inbox
      • Decide on retention period for e-mails 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 e-mail. Ideally your inbox and sent items should both be reviewed daily and actioned e-mails deleted or moved to a folder. This prevents the development of backlogs which are time-consuming and difficult to deal with.