If you have an email account you get emails every day, whether you’ve initiated the conversation or not. It could be an email from a high-ranking government official from a country you’ve never heard of advising you that you’ve won a lottery, or an “important” communication from a credit card company telling you that you can save money on your interest rate. We all get emails; in some cases hundreds a day. Have you thought about what emails you’re required to keep, and which ones you should delete?
Email retention is an area of records management with an evolving set of regulations and requirements. Understanding what should be kept and how to manage the never-ending flow of these digital communications can be a daunting task. But there are some basic guidelines to help you overcome the challenges of an ever-expanding inbox and help you sort through the confusion.
- Where do I start? – Clearly, emails that are spam or solicitations don’t need to be retained. They should be deleted and in some cases, the sender should be blocked from sending you any further communication. Removing unnecessary email reduces the number of emails you have to sift through every day.
- What should I keep? – There are legal requirements for email retention related to business transactions or open records requests that determine what should be retained and how long. Tax-related records typically need to be kept for seven years and emails related to legal questions fall into that same timeframe. If it’s an email that you consider to be important, then keep it.
- Archive your important emails – Organizing the emails you want to retain can also help you find an email when you need it. Developing a system, whether it’s for a group of employees or one person, is the key to a retention plan that not only delivers efficiency but also search-ability.
- Have a plan in place – It all starts with a plan of action. By understanding what emails you need to keep, developing a policy that reflects and enforces it, should eliminate any confusion about emails and their retention.
Developing a plan for email retention will go a long way in reducing the uncertainty associated with the unknowns of records management in a digital world. Like most things, putting a consistent plan in place is your first step.