’Tis the season to be jolly – indeed, whether you’re into the festive season or not, your friends are bound to drag you with them to celebrate the holiday spirit, and after a few doses of mulled wine you’ll probably get into the ‘spirit’ too. I’m that little angel who whispers into your ear: remember that what is sent from and delivered to your work mailbox is probably archived.

Imagine how awkward it would be if, during an email content scan for particular keywords, some of your emails stand out. Here are a few ‘situations’ that you should keep in mind this festive season:

  • Oh those embarrassing email threads! – We all know our work mailbox does not always include work-related content. You might discuss your plans for the festive season with a close friend or you may pass judgment on a colleague. No harm there (although you should be focusing on work and leaving such chat for lunch break); however, remember to think before you write. Would you really like anyone to come across an email thread between you and a colleague or friend in which you talk about a planned steamy weekend break or about someone you fancy in the office?
  • You got that photographed? And taped too?! – They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Make that a million especially if you’re at your annual holiday party and decide it’s time to let go and have one or two drinks more than usual. The day after, you go to work with a slight hangover and, as if your colleagues’ accounts of the scene you made were not enough, you open your mailbox to find an email with some photo(s) attached to remind you what good entertainment you were. And if it all doesn’t come back to you through the image(s), there’s probably another email with a video of you performing in front of everyone.But the worst case scenario would be if you actually laughed the whole thing off and decided to share the image(s) and/or video(s) that X sent you with Y, only to find out that you accidentally sent them to Z, who happens to be a senior member of staff (the joys of Outlook’s auto complete email address function). Oops! Now, even management has a copy archived for good measure.
  • Friends love to share – You also need to ensure that you don’t receive stuff from friends that could project a negative image of you. Bawdy jokes, links to certain websites, or photos of your friends or friends of friends may be harmless but they could be more risqué than you or management will accept. Always remember that what you received in your inbox may be archived – and belongs to the company. If something goes wrong or if illicit material is discovered, you may have to face the music. Use your personal email address if you have any doubts.

Hyperbolic?  It may sound funny but there is an important lesson to be learnt. Email in many organizations is retained for years and your work email address is there for work use. We all receive non work-related email but bear in mind that certain content is not acceptable. If you really must share evidence of your party antics use another email address or personal social media forums. On second thoughts, be careful about what you post on Facebook too…  You never know when your current or future employer may come across those pictures or comments.