Email Etiquette Policy

Email Etiquette Policy

Policy Title:Email Etiquette Policy
Written/Adopted Date:  March 2020
Final Date of Review with Staff:  Monday, March 23rd 2020
Policy Ratified14th September 2020
Review Date:March 2023 Or sooner if necessitated by alteration to terms or conditions issued by Circular Letter from DES..
Policy Implementation Date:With immediate effect.

1. Introduction

1.1.1 St. Patrick’s Girls National School (GNS) introduced staff email addresses in response to requirements under our GDPR policy and to enhance the sharing of teacher resources during the Covid-19 Pandemic and emergency shut down of our school.  St. Patrick’s GNS recognises that email is accepted as one of the primary methods of communication but in an age of digital information ‘overload’, all staff should be mindful of the impact of an excessively email driven culture and make smart choices about what, when and how to communicate with others. It is universally agreed that face to face communication is always the preferred option for communication. 

1.1.2 With many individuals now accessing emails across multiple personal and work devices, it is increasingly important to use email appropriately in a way that fosters productivity and efficiency whilst enabling staff to manage a reasonable work life balance.

1.1.3 It is also important that staff are aware of how best to use emails to enhance instead of hinder working practices and relationships with others, to be sure our communication choices are improving the quality of the working environment at St. Patrick’s GNS.

2. Guidance aims

2.1.1 This guidance covers all staff at the School and sets out what is considered acceptable behaviour in relation to the use of emails between staff and others. This includes internal correspondents, i.e. colleagues, team members, students or volunteers, and those external to the School, such as contractors or providers. Expectations set out within this guidance Email Etiquette at St. Patrick’s GNS complement the School’s Mission Statement- We in St Patrick’s Girls National School, aided by the Department of Education and Skills and our Catholic ethos, work together to create a progressive learning community. Our school is a happy, active, safe environment where we include, encourage and respect each other. Together we provide an excellent academic education. Our learning makes us ambitious to develop our full potential as balanced and confident citizens.

 2.1.2 This guidance focuses on email behaviour and etiquette and does not attempt to outline the technical requirements of email usage. Details on the School’s legislative obligations on how emails are handled in relation to being viewed as ‘data’ or ‘information’ can be found in the General Data Protection Regulation Policy.

3. Guidance principles

3.1.1 Email communication is highly beneficial for speed, minimal cost and convenience. They are a formal written form or communication which is covered by a number of laws in Ireland, meaning they can be used for legal purposes (e.g. an employment tribunal or court of law as evidence where it is deemed necessary).

3.1.2 Although it is often regarded as such, email should not be considered an informal method of speaking with others when dealing with School business, despite it being a fast and easy way of communicating. It is also important that it is recognised by all staff that intensive or overuse of email can result in negatively impacting recipients in a number of ways.

3.1.3 Excessive or inappropriate use of email, or emails with an excessive amount unnecessary content, can result in ‘information overload’, where an individual feels overwhelmed by the volume of emails received. This can lead to a number of negative outcomes such as stress, anxiety, miscommunication, indecision or poor decision making, procrastination and other counter-productive avoidance behaviours, though this is not an exhaustive list.

4. Fostering good working relationships

4.1.1 When sending emails, senders should be aware of their audience at all times. In doing so it is important to keep any relevant dynamics in mind, i.e. with senior staff emailing more junior colleagues, what may seem to the sender as a request or suggestion may be interpreted as a directive by the recipient(s).

4.1.2 Equally, what one may consider a reasonable tone may easily cause offence to another. Staff should ensure that care and attention is taken with email correspondence, just as it would be with a written letter, to reduce the chance of misinterpretation and misunderstanding.

4.1.3 The ‘bcc’ option should generally not be used in the interest of disclosure and full transparency of communications to all parties, both the sender and recipient.

5. Emails out of hours

5.1.1 One way of fostering good working relationships at work is being conscious of email use out of hours. The normal School working day is 8.50am to 2.30pm and, for the purposes of this guidance, “out of hours” emails are those sent before 8.30am and after 3.00pm.

5.1.2 Owing to the nature of some roles at the School, and the range of locations these may be undertaken, emails sent outside of working hours will sometimes be both normal and 3 necessary. For many other roles across the School, out of hours emails should be the exception rather than the rule.

5.1.3 Emails sent outside of working hours can alleviate the sender’s workload, particularly as teaching loads and/or other intensive periods of meetings and commitments are predominantly set within working hours, or can be convenient where travel is required. With technology allowing staff to access emails via mobiles, tablet and laptops while on the move, the boundary between professional and personal arenas can also become increasingly blurred.

5.1.4 Whilst it is the prerogative of the sender to send an email whenever they choose, it is also the recipient’s prerogative to choose when to read their incoming emails (i.e. normally within working hours), provided this is in line with the accepted levels of professional behaviour and aligned with the expectations of their role responsibilities. There should be no general expectation that staff will read emails out of hours. It is also advised where an urgent response is needed, a follow up by telephone may be more appropriate than a “chaser” email.

5.1.5 Senders should also be mindful of the impact on others when sending lots of emails out of hours, even if the sender does not expect a swift response. Arriving to work to a full “inbox” unexpectedly can be a stressor to recipients who may be deluged by emails both inside and outside of working hours.

6. Tackling problems

6.1.1 Where staff feel that colleagues are not making efforts to abide by the contents of this guidance it is reasonable to follow the grievance procedure as set out by the school. Staff are reminded of this procedure when returning to school each September.

 7. ‘Rule of Thumb’ email guidance

 In terms of what is currently considered good practice:

• Consider whether an email is the most effective method of communicating your message. It may be more productive to have a quick meeting or phone call followed up with one summary email to confirm discussions (if necessary).

• Remain respectful, treating others with dignity at all times.

• Write all email messages in a professional manner. Whilst the written style may sometimes differ, the general content of a work email should be consistent to other forms of written communication.  • Keep emails short and to the point wherever possible. This will be beneficial for all dealing with large numbers of emails and assist with recipients working remotely on tablets or mobiles.

• Re-read emails before sending from the perspective of the recipient(s). Ensure your communication is clear, in particular in relation to the positioning of instructions within the body of the message, highlighting clearly required actions. Where ‘no action’ is necessary and where the email is for only for information, this should be stated.

• Do not leave the subject line blank.

• Ensure appropriate use of cc. and whether all participants of an email need to continue to be cc.ed or included in an email trail when the topic deviates to another issue.

• Be extremely cautious in the use of bcc. ensuring that decisions to do so would meet the standards of the Ethics Code, particularly with regard to integrity and transparency.

• Try to minimise the use of graphics, different fonts, and formats stored within a document when sending it as an attachment to an email.

• Be extremely careful when sending emails containing personal or confidential information. • Check the recipient’s name, especially if there is more than one person with the same name or where a person uses more than one email addressl.

• Before commencing writing an email on a sensitive topic, consider talking confidentially in person or by phone instead. If there is a possibility that the email will be misconstrued, misunderstood or intercepted, it is probably best avoided.

• Do not expect others to wade through extensively long email trails to pick up important information you wish them to be aware of.

 • Where the content of an extended email trail has changed direction or purpose be mindful of continuing to forward excessively long email trails to others or continuing to include others as either ‘to’ or ‘cc’ recipients unnecessarily.

• Avoid using uppercase text unless completely appropriate and necessary for particular emphasis (e.g. acronyms or initials of names), as this is often interpreted as electronic “shouting”.

• Be careful when using humour or sarcasm within an email as this can be easily misinterpreted.

 • It is accepted that emails are may be prepared and sent outside of normal School working hours, however, it should be fully expected that replies should not be expected before the next working day commences.

8. Personal email usage

8.1.1 Email functionality is provided to staff for work purposes; however, it is recognised that in a more flexible work-life environment, limited usage of work email for personal usage is unlikely to cause a significant adverse impact on work productivity. Nonetheless, staff should ensure that personal emails do not impinge upon work performance and do not take precedence over work that requires urgent attention. Where possible, personal emails should be limited to lunch breaks, tea breaks etc.

 8.1.2 Staff should also be aware that emails containing inappropriate material are not acceptable at any time. Staff should also be made aware that, ‘deleting or ‘permanently deleting’ emails does not mean they are unrecoverable at a later date.