Email Management

Information and Privacy Office

Why email matters

Every email that is sent or received by a University employee in a business capacity is an official University record. Emails have the same value as any other record – paper or electronic. They provide evidence of the University’s activities while also enabling accountable governance. In addition, emails are subject to disclosure under laws such as The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and The Personal Health Information Act (PHIA).

The different types of emails

There are two main types of emails - business and transitory.

A business email supports and provides evidence of the operations of the University. It records a decision, opinion, transaction, agreement, recommendation or other act. Business emails may also support or add value to an existing record. They must be retained according to established office recordkeeping practices and retention schedules.

Examples of business emails include:

  • Final versions of reports and recommendations for internal or external audiences
  • Formal agreements, memoranda of understanding and other legal documents
  • Communications between faculty and students
  • Minutes and agendas of committees and working groups
  • Authorizations, instructions, and commitments on behalf of the University
  • Development and amendment of policies and procedures
  • Any internal or external communications related to official University business
  • Any type of record that would normally be filed in a paper filing system

A transitory email is one with temporary or no business value. What began as a business email may become a transitory email, once a more complete record is formed. Most transitory emails are only required for a limited period of time to complete a routine action or prepare a subsequent record. Others may be entirely unrelated to the University’s activities.

Examples of transitory emails include:

  • Drafts and working copies of documents that are used to prepare a subsequent record
  • Correspondence captured in a subsequent, fuller communication
  • Documents sent for strictly convenience or informational purposes
  • Messages used to schedule or confirm meetings or other events
  • Personal messages that are unrelated to the University
  • Messages distributed to a wide audience, such as newsletters and all staff bulletins
  • Copies of documents that have already been printed and filed as an official copy
  • Any document that someone else is responsible for filing and keeping
  • Unsolicited or spam messages

Managing and saving emails                                                

Create a file plan made up of a series of folders within the email system. Create folder titles based on common work functions using language that is simple and easy to understand. This will facilitate consistent filing and ensure that the structure is an accurate reflection of work processes. If another filing structure already exists for the management of paper or electronic records, mimic it as closely as possible.

File or delete emails as soon as they are first read. An inbox is an in-tray and not a place for storage. File emails consistently so that related records are kept together in the same folder.

After reading an email, consider the following actions:

  • File all business emails in an appropriate folder and save them until they no longer have operational or legal value - follow established office recordkeeping practices and retention schedules.
  • Print business emails of high importance and include them in a paper filing system
  • File transitory emails with temporary business value in an appropriate folder and delete them when they are no longer needed - follow established office recordkeeping practices and retention periods
  • Delete personal emails, “spam,” newsletters and other transitory records with no business value as soon as they are read
  • Follow established office recordkeeping practices regarding the saving of emails in their native electronic formats
  • Periodically ensure that all emails of business value have been filed and saved as needed and then empty your trash

Important note: If an email relates to an ongoing FIPPA or PHIA investigation, or other legal or audit action, DO NOT DELETE IT, even if it has already been printed and filed.

Protecting personal and sensitive information

Before sending an email, consider carefully whether it will reveal – intentionally or unintentionally – the personal or sensitive information of the University, its employees and students or third parties. Limit the communication of personal or sensitive information to only what is necessary. Send personal or sensitive information only to those who need it to do their job.

Remember the following tips:

  • Use the University email system when communicating personal or sensitive information
  • Encourage email recipients to use their University accounts if possible
  • Ensure the email is being sent to only the intended recipient(s)
  • Consider password protection and encryption for attachments
  • Use BCC when appropriate to avoid disclosing the email addresses of multiple recipients
  • When forwarding an email, make sure that it does not contain personal or sensitive information
  • Create a statement of confidentiality and include it at the beginning or end of the email
  • Consider sharing personal or sensitive information in-person, over the phone, or in a letter
  • If personal or sensitive information is received in error, delete the email and empty the trash

Drafting professional emails

Create emails that are concise and provide an accurate reflection of work activities. Unless they are requested or relevant, try not to include personal opinions in emails. An effective email is simple, informative and provides the recipient(s) with just the right amount of information. Stick to a single subject per email.

Additional tips include:

  • Use the University email system
  • Ensure sensitive emails are going to the right recipient(s)
  • Avoid ambiguous terms such as question or general in subject headings
  • Send emails only to those who need it - avoid using reply all unless necessary
  • Create a new subject line if the purpose or direction of an email has changed
  • Include a signature block with a name and contact information