Managing records and archives
We’re suddenly working in a very different way and our long-standing habits for storing and sharing information like emailing attachments and printing can create both challenges and opportunities. There are some relatively simple things that we can all do to help increase efficiency, save money and improve the ability of the council to locate important information when it's required.
If you have just 5 minutes to think about how you manage records
As an employee, think about:
- could you write a post in Microsoft Teams instead of sending an internal email?
As a manager, think about:
- what type of issues are your team raising with you about the information they deal with? How can you support your team to work smarter?
If any change to your role has given you more downtime than usual, read on and find out how to use this time to manage records and archives.
What are records and archives?
Records are evidence of work activity and should be kept for as long as stated in the retention schedule (legacy council retention schedules are still in place).
Some information is administrative and supports day to day work but is not formal evidence. This information is not a record and should be deleted as soon as it’s not needed.
Archives are records selected for permanent preservation, often for legal reasons to represent corporate memory or cultural heritage.
Easier access from home
Remember these important points when working from home:
- everyone is encouraged to work digitally where possible, even if just as a temporary arrangement. Start where you are: work with the files you would otherwise print in an organised folder structure on your shared drive
- don’t print things that don’t need to be printed. Can letters be attached to an email? If you are concerned you need to issue a signed letter, ask your manager to contact your Digital and Change Business Partner so we can understand who may need digital signature technology
- only use council devices and apps (for example cloud storage in Office 365) when working from home. Set up a Microsoft Teams workspace for sharing documents and send links rather than attachments. Links require the recipient to have access to the requested document, while attachments can be forwarded and leave the control of the council.
An example of this is Dorset History Centre who have started using Microsoft Teams and are using this opportunity to remove legacy apps such as ShARE. Important documents are now all in one place where the team can access, discuss and work on them together.
No more lost files
We are at risk of losing information, simply because of the huge organisational change and the many legacy drives we are bringing together. If you haven’t already, investigate how Microsoft Teams can be used as a single place to work.
Managers and team leaders can use this opportunity to understand the information access problems different team members have. Do you know where all your information from legacy authorities is? Can everyone access what they need?
Are there emails that you regularly look for? Email should be for communication, not storage. Review your inbox by thinking about how to store work emails in a team area with the related files and data. Working ‘in the open’ and keeping everything relating to an activity together makes it less likely to get lost.
If your team is taking paper files home, keep track of this in a place everyone can access.
An example of this is Occupational Health who have set up a simple tracker in Excel to manage paper files going in and out of the office while they are working from home. This is good practice to reduce the risk of data breaches. The team are also looking into reducing their reliance on paper in the longer term.
We can support our declaration of a climate emergency by only keeping the information we need and clearing out everything that is kept ‘just in case’. This means less electricity wasted on maintaining unnecessary storage and backups. Review and clear out any unnecessary files; check your most recent retention schedule, which may be from a predecessor authority
Reviewing your shared drives is a big job. There are various ways to tackle this. Contact the Information Management Team for advice and support with this process.
Can you identify any records that are no longer required by your team but are of historical importance or significance (if you can assess paper records without visiting an office)? Dorset History Centre are interested in both paper and digital records requiring permanent preservation. To discuss transfers of potential archives, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Review your list of files that are stored in RMU/G3/Grange Road/Westport House basement for example. Are there any files that need to be destroyed or transferred to DHC?
An example of this is October 2019 when Trading Standards made a team effort to sort their shared drives and went from 510 GB to 452 GB, an 11% reduction. But more importantly, they deleted things they didn’t need any more, making it easier to find their important records.
Think about the future beyond this situation; what employee wouldn’t be more productive without having spent an hour in traffic trying to get to work? Processes are not always more efficient just by being digital. Join up with your colleagues (do you have a digital champion who can take the lead?) and think about whether any processes can be improved.
Even if something needs to be printed and kept as a paper copy, can it also be scanned and made available digitally as an access copy. Can any paper records be scanned and stored electronically? Log and plan for when back in the office.
Set an example and encourage others to co-author documents rather than sending attachments for comment.
Although we should be on alert that things can change quickly, hopefully this page has given you some ideas for exploring new technologies, housekeeping files and folders, and even to challenge the way we’ve always done things!
Information Asset Registers and retention schedules
Information Asset Registers and retention schedules are about to be updated. If you would like to get involved in piloting the new processes, please get in touch with the Information Management Team below.
Help and support contact information
Find help and support from our teams:
Contact the Information Governance team directly at
Records Management Unit
The Records Management Unit at County Hall is open on Wednesdays for emergency record retrievals, by request only.
Contact Records Management by email: email@example.com
Dorset History Centre
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for any enquiries regarding Dorset History Centre services or collections.
Digital and Change
Speak to your manager to find your Digital and Change Business Partner who can offer advice and support.
Digital Champions actively help their colleagues get to know new ways of working and M365 tools.
Find out more about protecting sensitive and personal data.
Or contact the Information Compliance Team by email: