Worst of 2012: That 'reply all' button, and solutions that could save you in 2013
The Reply-All email: should companies do away with it given the potential hazards? (Phil Hahn, CTVNews.ca)
Published Sunday, December 30, 2012 10:14AM EST
We’ve all experienced it or know someone who has: the heart-pounding panic after hitting ‘Reply All’ and then ‘Send’ on a message meant for only a select few on the email chain.
Like ‘Joey’, a Canadian ex-pat teaching in Milan, who told CTVNews.ca he sent plans for a romantic evening with a new girlfriend to his entire faculty.
While these mishaps can be side-splittingly funny and provide great fodder for the company holiday party, others can lead to jobs lost, feelings hurt and relationships damaged beyond repair.
Because of the potential embarrassment and damage ‘reply all’ can cause, is it time to do away with it? Or at least make it a bit less convenient to do?
Thankfully there are safeguards available for those with itchy click fingers, who are ready to admit they need help saving them from themselves in our world of instant communication.
Microsoft offers a free, simple plug-in option for Outlook 2010 that you can download, called NoReplyAll.
It simply adds a few buttons to your ‘ribbon’ at the top of your email menu. Here’s what the buttons look like:
By clicking the ‘Reply All’ disable button, the actual ‘Reply All’ button is greyed out, and becomes unclickable, like so:
If you really do need to reply to everybody, just click the disable button again and the greyed-out button becomes functional. Simple.
You might prefer another free Outlook add-on called by Infosystems, called TuneReplyAll. If you’re replying en masse to an email group, a warning pops up that asks if you really want to send your message.
Again, simple but effective, and a worthwhile extra step that might save you from a lot of trouble.
If you’re using an older version of Outlook, like 2003 or 2007, there’s an option that doesn’t require installing plug-ins. Hold down your Alt key, then drag the 'Reply All' button right off the ribbon. Want it back? Click on the arrow on the right side of the ribbon to customize your buttons, and reactivate ‘Reply All’.
For those who use Gmail, there’s a built-in safeguard in the form of an ‘Undo Send’ button that you enable it by going into Settings -> Lab.
You can also adjust the delay in how fast your emails get sent out, from five seconds up to 30 seconds (in the ‘General’ category in Settings). The longer the delay, of course, the more time you have to undo your mistake.
Of course, mistakes could happen just as easily when replying to emails on a smartphone. While there doesn’t seem to be a built-in function or app on for the iPhone, there are a few Blackberry apps like Puguasoft’s Unsend Email which give you features similar to Gmail’s delay and unsend.
If all this seems ridiculous and unnecessary, don’t be surprised if your workplace gets its IT department to install any of these, or similar, safeguards company-wide.
Why? Aside from banishing the annoying ‘Thanks everyone!’ mass replies, and protecting employees from serious gaffes, these emails can cost a company millions of dollars a year in lost productivity, according to Seattle analytics company VoloMetrix.
The company tells the San Franciso Chronicle that at least 15 per cent of an average office worker's day is spent on email, and 5 per cent of emails received are of the 'Reply All' variety.
When spread out over a 10,000-employee company, that productivity loss can translate into tens of millions of dollars a year, reports the Chronicle.
You can bet the U.S. state department wished it had a safeguard in place in 2009, when employees sent angry 'reply all' responses to a blank errant email sent to thousands of employees -- a situation compounded by users trying to recall the email, generating even more email traffic which eventually crashed the system.
And earlier this year, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney apologized to Alberta deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk for referring to him as an "a**hole" in an email. Yes, it was a "reply all."