Email Charter

Division of Psychiatry wants to help reverse the problems caused by email overload. We would love everyone in our community to be part of the solution and adopt the following Email Charter.

Note for users

This email charter is intended as guidance rather than Divisional policy

1. Respect recipients’ time

Make your email easy to read: use these plain English tips to make your communication more effective. 

2. Short is not rude

It’s ok to be brief. Don’t take brevity personally and know that others won’t. Wordy responses take longer to read. People are more likely to scan long emails and key details can be easily missed. 

3. Celebrate clarity

Subject line: write a short subject line that clearly indicates the topic. 
Opening line:  Use this to give the reason for writing. 

Although long emails are best avoided, if inevitable, consider adding a summary statement in the first paragraph of the email. This should summarise what is required from the recipient.  

4. Slash CCs

Only CC someone who really needs this message and indicate the reason for including them i.e. CC John & Priya, for info/follow-up. If there are multiple recipients, consider who needs to be included in your response, and choose individual recipients accordingly. Consider whether you always need to “reply-all” to email messages. 

5. Tighten the thread

If you need to include the email trail showing the context, cut out what’s not relevant. If it’s lengthy, summarise or make a phone call instead.

6. Reduce attachments

Attachments take up space, are hard to manage, and can pose security risks, and are bad for the environment (see below!). Alternative solutions now exist to share documents as links in Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Teams. Sharing a link to a collaborative document, if possible, can be more efficient as it allows several team members to read, edit and revise a single document, saving time and reducing duplicated effort. Find out more here: 

  7. Response time

Don’t feel you need to give an instant response, and don’t expect to get one. Video call (Teams/Zoom), telephone or Teams messaging are sometimes better if something is urgent.  

Wherever possible, we encourage people to send emails in UCL core hours (10am-4pm, Mon-Fri), although we recognise this may not always be practical or possible. If you work flexibly, and regularly send emails outside of these times, consider using the “scheduled send” function in Outlook: 

We recognise that people work in a variety of ways. If you work flexibly, you may also use an email footer to remind readers that you don’t expect an immediate response – for example:    

  Responses to emails are only expected during your working hours   

 Staff and students are not expected to monitor or respond to emails outside of their working hours. If you access email on portable devices, you have the option to schedule notifications to correspond with your working hours. 

8. Disconnect sometimes

Can you block off times for email-free working? Consider adding an ‘auto-response’ that makes it clear you’re not checking your inbox. 

9. Reference this charter

Spread the word and help change email culture. Reference this charter in your email footer: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/psychiatry/email-charter 

10. Cut contentless responses

Not every email requires a response. Did you know that if every person in the UK sent one less “thank you” email a day, we would save 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year?

That’s the same as 81,152 flights to Madrid! Consider using the Microsoft reactions instead (usually located at the top right of your email) for a quick thumbs-up “Thank you”.  When accepting meeting invitations, please use the response buttons and only email if needing to give apologies or request further info.