Email guidelines

NOTE: This is a translation of the Swedish version (Riktlinjer om e-post). In the event of any discrepancy between the versions, the Swedish version constitutes the official decision and the Swedish wording will prevail.

Introduction

These guidelines have been produced to help staff and associates of Karolinska Institutet (KI) make proper use of email. The guidelines apply to email use at KI and concern staff and associates.

Guidelines are recommendations that do not exclude other forms of conduct.

Email as a tool and communication channel

Email makes it easier for you to perform your tasks at work. Always think about what you want your message to achieve and what channel is best suited for the person you wish to communicate with and the nature of the message.

Reply as quickly as possible to the emails you receive. If the matter is a complex one requiring a longer response time, you can email the sender telling them that you have received the mail and will get back to them later.

Functional accounts

Functional accounts allow a group of colleagues to answer emails on the functions behalf, thus enabling KI’s organisational units to offer a high degree of accessibility and service as it means that a particular person does not have to be constantly available. A functional account must be monitored, however, to ensure that incoming emails are handled correctly.

Statutory service duty

KI is obliged by the Administrative Procedure Act (2017:900) to provide information, guidance, advice and other such support to individuals so that they may protect their interests concerning issues that fall within KI’s sphere of activities. Such help is to be provided to an extent that is appropriate to the nature of the issue in hand, the individual’s need for help and KI’s operations. KI is legally bound to reply to questions from private individuals as quickly as possible, and should such an individual mistakenly approach the wrong authority, he or she is to be redirected. These are procedures to which email is eminently suited.

Emails as official documents

Official documents

Email is subject to the same rules of public access, confidentiality and registration as regular printed document. Emails received by and sent from a KI account can qualify as official documents depending on the content.

If KI receives a request to release an official document, it is required to do so with the minimum delay. If an email deemed to be an official document that does not fall under confidentiality restrictions, KI is required by law to release it to the requesting party as quickly as possible, if not immediately. A delay of a day or two is acceptable if a decision needs to be taken on its confidential status

Examples of emails that are not official documents:

  • emails dealing solely with private matters
  • drafts, concepts for decision, memos and other work material sent during the preparation of a particular matter
  • internal emails (that do not add any factual information to a case – but see below).

Examples of emails that might be official documents:

  • emails received from an external sender (e.g. a student, an authority or a journalist)
  • emails sent to an external recipient (e.g. a student, an authority or a journalist)
  • internal emails containing factual information (i.e. information of value for deciding a particular matter).

Private emails

The KI email service is primarily intended for university-related matters, such as education, research and administration. A small amount of private use is, however, permitted. Private emails are generally not to be regarded as official documents. If an email, however, contains university-related information it falls into the public domain even if it also contains private information. Mixing private information and university-related information in the same email should therefore be avoided. Also avoid long email threads as all messages in the thread count as part of the document.

Email logs

A log of received and sent emails is a official document, even if some of the emails are private. The log contains details of sender, recipient, subject line, time and date of sending/receipt. The log can therefore contain details of private emails and other messages that are not in the public domain. So never write sensitive or confidential information in the subject line.

It is the responsibility of the IT Office to produce logs at the request of the registrar or an administrator.

Registration, archiving and disposal

Emails are subject to the same registration rules as regular post. This means that emails that are official documents are generally to be registered in KI’s case management system as soon as they are received or sent. Emails to be registered are forwarded to the registrar at the department (or the equivalent) to which the case belongs. There are certain exemptions to this rule, such as if an email is of a temporary or trivial nature. Official documents that are not covered by confidentiality need not be registered if they are kept properly arranged (e.g. by being placed in different folders). Official documents of a temporary or trivial nature need not be registered or properly arranged and may be deleted when no longer relevant. Many emails can be regarded as official documents of a temporary or trivial nature; in the event of uncertainty, contact the university administration’s registrar.

Other kinds of email that may be deleted are:

  • internal emails between staff that are not official documents
  • work material (e.g. drafts and memos)
  • advertisements
  • copies and duplicates
  • out-of-date information
  • emails that are FYI and require no action

KI’s document management plan specifies what types of document are to be registered, and what may be deleted and when.

Confidentiality

The principles of confidentiality are provided in the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act (2009:400). For security reasons, documents containing information covered by these provisions should not be sent my email. This includes details relating to personal business contacts, commissioned research, staff matters and other such sensitive material.

If, in spite of this, confidential information is to be sent by email, steps must be taken to ensure that the information does not fall into the wrong hands. Sensitive personal data must be encrypted in a way that guarantees no unauthorised access. Contact the IT office or KI’s legal counsel if you want to make sure that you are handling the information correctly and securely.

Documents covered by the confidentiality provisions must always be registered.

Access to emails in the event of absence

KI is to be so organised that the absence of individual employees does not affect business. Consequently, managers are required to have procedures in place for monitoring the email accounts of absent members of their staff. An automatic out-of-office message is not sufficient. Questions from individuals and requests for official documents must be dealt with promptly. Incoming emails that are official documents are to be registered as soon as they are received. It is therefore important that someone has access to a colleague’s emails in the event of his/her absence.

In the event of planned leave, a colleague or a manager who is present at KI should have access to the email account. This can be done through authorisation in the email system, and never by the person in question disclosing his/her password. Moreover, an automatic out-of-office message is to be set up stating the times/dates during which the user is unavailable and whom one can turn to in the meantime. The message must also contain a referral to the registrar for a request concerning access to an official document. An alternative procedure is for the employee in question to read and deal with emails while away. In the event of a more protracted absence, the situation must be resolved with the help of the IT Office.

It is the responsibility of the manager to ensure that email accounts are monitored in the event of staff absence.

Automatic forwarding forbidden

Since emails can be official documents, you must use your KI address for all your university-related communication.

It is forbidden to automatically forward your incoming emails to an external email account (e.g. a private one or one at another organisation such as Region Stockholm). The reason for this is that the documents are the property of KI and their content must be reviewed before being forwarded. KI is also bound, as a public authority, to ensure that communication of a public nature can be followed up and saved at a later date. Private email accounts may not be used for official business.

Mass mailings, list management and recipients

The ability to send multiple emails to large groups within KI is restricted in order to avoid abuse and spam attacks. Decisions on mass mailings to all staff and/or students may be made by the KI management, the director of IT, the director of information and the head of security. The head of the Education and Support Office at the university administration may decide on mass mailings to all students.

Individual users may apply for internal email lists and emails lists that also contain external contacts. Such requests are handled by central IT support.

Only send emails to those whom the content concerns, and avoid including too many recipients. Do not CC emails unnecessarily, but choose with care whom to copy to. Copies are FYI only, and CC recipients are never expected to act upon the information. For example, when an email is sent to a group of people who are asked to answer a particular question, the answers should, as far as practicable, be returned to the sender and not to others on the recipient list. In certain cases, however, this might be warranted.

Pay attention to long email threads. There might be reason to erase parts of the email when the matter in hand changes or when it affects more people than was originally the case.

Student emails

The public access principle does not apply to students’ email accounts, since their emails are not considered university documents. Note, however, that emails received by KI from a student might be covered by the public access principle and thus constitute an official document.

Students who are also employed are, however, subject to the same rules as for KI staff in general. Emails handled by a student in his/her capacity as an employee must therefore be kept separate from all other emails.