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Email best practice

This document is intended for WBS staff, who use the Outlook/Live@edu system. Some of its contents may be useful to WBS students as well although they use a separate email system.

Email is a key tool at WBS allowing for quick and efficient communications. Conversely it can rapidly cause harm to you, the School and other users within WBS and beyond. This document outlines best practices to minimise these risks. Before sending any email consider if it is the best form of communication or whether a visit, phone call or even a letter might be more effective.
  1. Access your email over the Internet using Outlook Web Access.
    Outlook Web Access is the web interface for your live@edu email account. It allows you access to your emails and calendar from anywhere in the world. For instructions on accessing see http://help.wbs.ac.uk/staffemail/owa .
  2. Always give your email a descriptive subject; EOM denotes End of Message
    Well-written subject lines allow the recipient to quickly find your message and prepare for its content. Indeed a good subject line may sometimes constitute the entire message; in this case you can add EOM to represent End Of Message e.g. "Meeting moved from B2.13 to B3.09 EOM".
  3. Put an expiry date on time-specific email
    If you send a time-specific email, add an expiry date so the email automatically disappears when no longer relevant. When returning from holidays or similar it can be frustrating to see many emails related to events that have passed. See http://help.wbs.ac.uk/staffemail/expire.
  4. Requests under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act
    It is a legal requirement that all FOI requests are answered within 20 days. Each user is responsible for checking for such requests and forwarding any received to enquiries@wbs.ac.uk . During periods of planned absence you must adopt the steps described in point 12 below.
  5. Emails are quick and convenient but not secure. It's easy to fake email addresses
    Faking email addresses (‘spoofing’) is easy. An email ‘from Bill Gates’ could actually be from anyone. Equally it is not possible to prevent people sending emails that appear to come from your account. This does not mean your account has been compromised – see http://help.wbs.ac.uk/kb/security/email/emailspoofing for more details. Conversely any email you send may be readable by others. Think of emails as being as public as postcards. Any email that asks for your bank details, password or security details is fake – delete it.
  6. Emails persist forever – think very hard before pressing send
    Every single email sent and received by the WBS system is liable to be archived and may be retained for years. An angry email you send in haste could come back to haunt you later. Good advice might be to write the message while angry, but not to send it until later when you are calm. It is strictly against University rules to use email to abuse, bully or harass anyone and these terms will be interpreted by others if upset is caused. Under the Data Protection Act anyone has the right to request access to any email about them and such requests may be granted by the University.
  7. Emailing large groups of people
    If you need to email many recipients never put the addresses in the ‘To’ field. This field is limited in size and holds about 30 addresses before delivery fails. An additional problem is that all recipients would be able to see the addresses of the other recipients. Instead, send the email to yourself and add all the other recipients into the BC (blind copy) field. This hides the addresses and is unlimited in size. WBS have a site licence for specialist mail-merging software, see http://help.wbs.ac.uk/mach5 .
  8. Target your emails to the people who really need to know
    Target your messages to the minimum number of people necessary. Emails should be sent ‘To’ people who need to do something and ‘CC-ed’ to people who need to be aware. Avoid sending requests ‘To’ more than one person. This is likely to lead to wasted work as each recipient tries to deal with the contents of your message.
  9. Don’t be accused of sending spam, either externally or internally
    Be careful when sending email surveys; the recipient must not perceive your message as spam. Contact the WBS Helpdesk for advice on sending email surveys or questionnaires. Never forward virus warnings or similar to others without checking first with the Helpdesk; usually such warnings are fake. Internally, be careful sending ‘thank you’ messages; busy recipients may just see them as ‘Inbox filler’.
  10. Don’t invite spam
    Unwanted "spam‟ email is a problem the world over. Make sure you aren't inviting spam, in particular:
    - Never reply to spam, you will only get more of it (‘on leave’ rules have the same effect, use sparingly)
    - Create a personal email address (see 11) and use this whenever you sign up for a service. Only use your WBS email address when you trust the other party.
  11. Use a personal address for personal email
    The WBS email system is legally the property of the University, which allows it wide-ranging rights to access mail as part of an official investigation, such as Bullying and Harassment or Health and Safety. While there is no problem with the account being used to send limited amounts of personal email, there is little need as it only takes a few seconds to create a free account with a provider such as Hotmail, Google or Yahoo. These accounts will continue to work should you leave WBS. Personal mail accounts should always be accessed using web interfaces to avoid possible problems of having multiple mail clients on your work computer. All WBS business, however, must be conducted using either your WBS or Warwick email address.
  12. Before you take a holiday, or other absence, ensure your email is being dealt with
    You are responsible for ensuring that WBS has access to necessary information during periods of planned absence as well as ensuring FOI compliance (see point 4). The recommended approach is to give access to a trusted colleague. See http://help.wbs.ac.uk/staffemail/sharefolderv . Creating an 'out of office' rule will satisfy minimum legal requirements provided it includes alternate contact details. See http://help.wbs.ac.uk/staffemail/OutOfOffice for help creating a rule

    In cases of unplanned absence (e.g. sickness) where access is needed by a colleague, such access may be granted following the receipt of a request from the Head of Group or similar. Full details are at http://group.wbs.ac.uk/issu/policies/emailabsence .
  13. Never send photographs, music or video by email
    Media files such as photos, music or videos can be very large and can cause a range of problems for both the sender and intended recipient. See http://help.wbs.ac.uk/staffemail/largefiles for advice on sending large files.
  14. Be aware of what happens to your email account when you leave
    Email accounts are deleted shortly after a staff member leaves and are irretrievable. Prior to deletion other staff may have access to the account to ensure messages are, or have been, dealt with. It is the departing staff member's responsibility to delete any private messages before they leave if they wish to ensure these are not potentially seen by other staff.
  15. Avoid using person-specific addresses in brochures and promotional or support material
    We are happy to create accounts like enquiries@wbs.ac.uk which can persist unchanged when specific staff members leave and their accounts are closed. See http://help.wbs.ac.uk/staffemail/resource for information on gaining access to such accounts.
  16. Always save email attachments before working on them
    You may often receive documents via email on which you need to work. Always save these to your computer before working on them to prevent the risk of your work being lost.

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