I realized that there are multiple reasons for why I would want to retain access to my work email correspondence:

  • In case I'd get laid off, or leaving on less than good terms. Having access to email conversations would be quite important to prove what I have/haven't done/said. Unfortunately it's also impossible to foresee which conversation, among all, might be important for this purpose.
  • Some bureaucratic documentation (e.g. salary slips, which documents the amount of taxes that was already paid on my behalf) might not have been sent in paper form, and would only be available in my work email.
  • Contacts of other (previous?) employees: it's possible that I might want to contact them again in the future, but without access to the details, that could prove quite difficult.

I'm currently leaving my current job, and luckily I don't see #1 as an actual reason to worry in this case. But when things go south, it might happen quite suddenly, and I'd have to yield access to any work device in the same day.

Also, companies might have quite different practices: at a previous one, having any kind of work stuff on personal device was a definite no-no. But at my current one, it's basically expected that we would have access to email, group chat and other stuff on our personal phones (they don't provide a work phone).

So, at the moment I already have access to work email on a personal device, but what I'm thinking is archiving it (i.e. downloading it with POP, rather than syncing with IMAP). To be able to leave a job on the same day with short notice, I wouldn't be able to filter/select/copy the emails in a different way.

But even when I have a few weeks available, (given also how busy work has been lately) I definitely don't have time to sift through months/years of correspondence, to only look for and retain the interesting bits.

For this reason I was thinking that I should probably start to set up POP archiving my work email, and update the archive every 1 or 2 weeks.

Do you think it's completely unusual? How do people usually handle the same concerns?

I'm interested about answers both regarding your personal experience, how ethical you think this would be, and also if we should be aware of caveats concerning how this might be seen in different countries around the world (I'm working in the UK) since laws are also obviously different.

  • If you use an offline copy of your corporate email in any kind of dispute, you may also find yourself at risk of prosecution for stealing company property (which corporate email is...). Having corporate digital content on your personal device doesn't mean that it's yours. You most probably signed an agreement to that end when you added your device to the email network. In my company, I accepted that my company can wipe my iPhone if they had a reason to believe the data was at risk.
    – user44108
    Jul 27 '17 at 6:59
  • To add to @JoeStrazzere, this is unusual. it almost sounds a bit paranoid, like you're worried that you've got a PIP coming up or you suspect they want to fire you. There's better things to do with your time than to meticulously comb your emails.
    – Kaizerwolf
    Jul 27 '17 at 12:59
  • After posting this question, I found this similar one: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/57312/… it has less negative answers, but the "company property" angle is reiterated there as well. @Pete I didn't sign any agreement when I connected my device. I think the same applies to Slack (I probably just approved an EULA, but if I remember something that only warned about any content that I wrote being accessible to the admins)
    – berdario
    Jul 27 '17 at 20:58
  • That said, I'm obviously reconsidering the archival idea, and I'll just note the contacts and official documentation that I might need, as of bullet points #2 and #3. I think that virtually everyone jaywalks when there are no cars nearby, and I was assuming that just like it, archiving my email conversations would just be a victimless and relatively benign infraction. Good that I had this reality check :)
    – berdario
    Jul 27 '17 at 21:05
  • @Kaizerwolf yeah, I'm definitely paranoid... that's my déformation professionnelle :P part of the reason for archiving everything is that it'd have been less time consuming than combing through all emails
    – berdario
    Jul 27 '17 at 21:06

I would strongly advise against keeping work email on a personal device. It's one thing to access work-related cloud services on a personal device (I use my phone to have access to work email and Slack in the event of a problem that needs immediate attention during off-hours). It's another thing to download and keep copies of records that may be owned by your company and may contain proprietary communications or confidential information.

Of the types of communication that you mention, the only one that I could understand keeping is some "bureaucratic documentation". However, my recommendation would be to (if possible) set up your personal email to receive salary notifications and other benefits information. This is what I do - all of the benefits providers have my personal email address as the contact information.

Keeping contact information of other employees may also be OK, but I wouldn't consider this company information. I have current and past coworkers connected on LinkedIn, but I also have their work (and sometimes personal) phone numbers and email addresses in my phone. Out of respect, I would consider the context with which you were provided the information. If you were provided it to stay in touch, I think it would be OK to keep. However, if you were provided the contact information in order to carry out work-related tasks or to communicate about work-related functions, then I would recommend not using it for personal reasons.

Of course, I can't speak to local laws. But I would consult your employer's policies regarding the personal use of devices and local laws regarding proprietary communication between companies and employees since you may be walking on a line if you have backups on a personal device, especially after you leave a company.

  • Yup, it'd be only for coworkers that explicitly invited me to stay in touch. I obviously use Linkedin, but in some cases I even got my ex-coworkers inviting me to add them to Steam, for example. (I didn't do that, but only because the last few months have been pretty busy, and I'm not playing videogames much lately, but I'd like to in the future)
    – berdario
    Jul 27 '17 at 21:24

At most companies I've worked for (UK), corporate email is company property. You're allowed access to it on your personal device for work-related tasks.

Keeping a copy of it for your own purpose can be considered theft.

  • "can be considered theft" - that sounds like you trying to give legal advice. It's not unreasonable for applications to cache emails by default, and the line between letting the application do it versus doing it yourself at best seems like a blurry one. Jul 27 '17 at 9:22
  • 7
    @Dukeling - OP is planning on intentionally retaining that corporate data. That's the context I am referring to.
    – user44108
    Jul 27 '17 at 9:24

Look through your company's network use policy. Saving emails is no different than saving any document considered internal to the company. They don't belong to you.

By saving these emails to a personal device, you are taking something that is not yours. I can almost guarantee that your network use policy will touch on the email server and what is allowed. I know at my job, I would be fired on the spot if I saved internal mail to a private device. If this is something you really want to do, look through the network use policy and talk to your manager about it. If you are allowed (which I doubt you are) they will tell you. If anything they tell you conflicts with the network use policy, do not do it. You almost certainly signed a document acknowledging the network use policy, so if they its ok and the policy says no, you will still be held accountable.

The easiest way around this is to just not do it. Instead, get letters of recommendation printed on company letter head and do your best not leave on bad terms.

  • To add to this; instead of saving emails of employees you might want to contact again, just write those contacts somewhere? There's no reason to save emails to keep contact information.
    – Kaizerwolf
    Jul 27 '17 at 12:57
  • I don't see it mentioned in the network use policy, but anyhow I won't bother archiving emails, since it's unanimously agreed to be a bad idea. @Kaizerwolf laziness is a reason, alas... not a good reason :P
    – berdario
    Jul 27 '17 at 21:14

Be Careful

Read your company policy on personal devices that contain company property - usually called a BYOD Policy.

Many companies have a little clause stating that you grant them the right to access any device which contains company property (e.g. their email) - and it usually also gives them the right to not only their data - but to your personal data and third party data on the device as well. And, that policy may allow them to keep the device until they are done "looking it over".

In these cases, where they allow you to keep electronic company property, it is not a theft, but, an open invitation to your former company to come and take what they want - especially if you and they do not part on good terms and they find out you have their email.

  • interesting, didn't think at all about this possibility
    – berdario
    Jul 27 '17 at 21:15

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