Listening to the cries of embarrassed office-workers everywhere, Google this week introduced the ‘undo sent mail’ function to its Gmail service – allowing senders to recall an email before it arrived in the inbox of the (un)intended recipient. The function can be switched on in Gmail’s settings, with a cancellation period of 10, 20 or 30 seconds, after which the email is sent. You’ll have to act fast, but at least you have a window of opportunity to avoid the embarrassment or potential disaster brought on by sending an inappropriate email.
The feature had actually been available in Gmail’s experimental Labs settings for about 6 years already, but has only this week been added to the company’s inbox mobile email app. Given the huge number of internet searches for ‘how to unsend an email’, this feature should come as a huge relief for those who’ve had the unenviable experience of breaking into a panicked sweat after sending an email to the wrong person, or with an embarrassing typo. Some people even see email as career-threatening, given its speed and lack of face-to-face contact. The Telegraph recently reported a case of an office worker who was fired for sending emails in BLOCK CAPITALS, widely regarded to be poor email etiquette.
In some cases though, errant email mistakes can provide some excellent comic relief. One colleague once referred to themselves as ‘Señor Account Executive’ instead of ‘Senior’ – an interesting Spanish twist on their title. Another, in her first couple months at a new job, once accidentally sent a birthday present wish list to her boss instead of boyfriend, who answered ‘Thanks – good to know’.
Sending out the huge volume of emails that most of us do these days – on average around 121 each day – it’s no wonder mistakes are made. Some of these mistakes can even be a risk to our businesses. A survey by The Creative Group found that 78% of marketing professionals admitted to having mistakenly forwarded a “sensitive” message to the wrong person or company and neglected to mention it to their manager.
A swift search online also throws up a dozen examples of accidental email fails that are utterly cringe worthy.
Oxford University made the terrible mistake of sending a list of its worst performing pupils to the entire year of students. The email revealed the names and results of almost 50 undergraduates who got a 2:2 grade or below in pre-Christmas exams – the very definition of the word, awkward.
Last November, Australia held the G20 Leaders’ Summit had their own email error when it emerged that a staff member at Australia’s Department of Immigration had mistakenly sent the personal information of all the leaders attending the summit – including passport numbers, dates of birth and visa numbers – to the Local Organising Committee of the Asian Cup international football tournament. We’re all for freedom of information but this might be going a bit too far.
These unfortunate examples and others like them may be avoided in the future thanks to Gmail’s latest setting. Remember, the undo send function won’t help if you wake up the next day horrified that you sent that drunken email to your boss/ex/whole company, but if you’re checking over a sent email only to find an annoying subject typo, you might be luck.
So, to all us who use Gmail, turn the undo send function on. Right now.
Laura Gregoire, Account Executive, Technology Team
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November 20, 2023
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