Delegate Gmail Inbox

Gmail Delegation and Its Benefits

Gmail delegation is a viable option for users needing others to access and support their email. Here's how to set it up.

catherine heath

October 24, 2023

10 mins read

We often think of email as a solo activity – something you engage in over a cup of coffee while desperately trying to keep on top of a flood of correspondence. The reality is that you may share the management of email with others, and giving someone user access to your email account can be a risky business. 

That’s why providers like Gmail have enabled Gmail delegation. You might be going on vacation and require someone to check your emails for you, or you might hire a personal assistant who needs to manage your email. Whatever the reason, Gmail delegation is a viable option for users who need others to access their email.

“Effective communication helps to keep the team working on the right projects with the right attitude.” – Alex Langer

However, as we shall see later, Gmail delegation may not always be the best option for professional communication and there are alternatives available. Gmail is a powerful tool but there exist many extensions such as our own Keeping. 

Want to boost collaboration in Gmail?
Keeping lets you manage a shared inbox within Gmail and collaborate on customer emails without collision.

Allowing someone else delegated access to your Gmail account requires even more features when you’re a customer service team, and that’s why we built Keeping. 

What is Gmail delegation?

Gmail launched delegation for emails in 2010, so this feature has been around for a while but you may not know about it. Delegating your email means another user can read, manage and send email on your behalf, with limited access to your Gmail account. You can give someone access to your Gmail while retaining control over your password and other Gmail settings. 

Gmail delegation exists simply to allow users to share a single email address for the purposes of email management. 

With Gmail delegation, you give someone access to your whole inbox rather than particular emails. It’s a safer way of sharing your emails rather than forwarding them or simply sharing your password, which poses a huge security risk.

Gmail delegation exists to allow multiple users access to the same inbox, and accomplishes a similar function to their Collaborative Inbox but with no extra features. We’ll have more on this later.  

To use Gmail delegation, it must be enabled by your organization’s admin or it won’t work. 

The benefits of Gmail delegation

There are numerous benefits of using Gmail delegation to manage your inbox. 

Gives other users access to your emails

The primary purpose of using Gmail delegation is to give other users access to your emails, which means you don’t have to forward emails, important documents, or other sensitive information. Someone has access to your email exactly like you would so they can manage them in your absence. 

Prevents you having to share your password

Sharing your password is a risky way to give access to your email so choosing Gmail delegation is a better option. In the past, Gmail users would have no choice but to share their password so the Gmail delegation feature makes your account much more secure. Additionally, multiple users logging into your account from different locations and devices might trigger Google to lock your account for security purposes. 

Read More: How to Clean up Gmail in 8 Easy Steps

Allows multiple users to collaborate on email

In a similar way to the Gmail Collaborative Inbox, multiple users can collaborate on email using the same account. For example, small customer service teams could use email delegation to share an inbox for customers, as long as their inquiries are limited and they don’t have too many team members jumping into the mix. 

Creates a better experience

When you have multiple people reading and responding to emails, being able to delegate your emails to other users means that they can respond to email using your email address. This means that customers, colleagues, clients, and other parties aren’t on the receiving end of confusing experiences. 

Gmail delegation is free

If you want to use Gmail delegation you don’t need any special software – it’s available directly as a feature in your Gmail account. This is great for users who are on a budget but still need a way to share email. 

The difference between Gmail delegation and Collaborative Inbox

You might be wondering what the difference is between Gmail delegation and Collaborative Inbox, which are both features of Gmail. While Gmail delegation means your inbox is still very much your own, a Collaborative Inbox is a truly shared inbox. 

You might enable a Collaborative Inbox in Gmail when you want multiple users to collaborate on email, such as a customer service team. They will be able to assign emails to other users and add a status for the email, which you can’t do with Gmail delegation. 

Gmail delegation works best when you have a primary user for an account who wants to share their inbox with others, but still retain ultimate control over their email. Collaborative Inbox by Google Groups is best for teams or organizations that want to access a shared email account. 

Both options are available in the free and paid Google Workspace plans

How to enable Gmail delegation for your organization

For organizations using Gmail, you will need to turn Gmail delegation on, and you must be an administrator for the organization (work or school) to be able to change your settings. It’s possible to allow anyone in your organization to delegate Gmail access or only allow individuals from certain departments. 

Making sure you are logged into your Google Workspace account as an administrator, and follow these steps: 

  • Log into your Google Admin Console as an administrator. 
  • Navigate to Menu and then Apps > Google Workspace > Gmail > User settings.
  • To enable Gmail delegation for everyone in your organization, leave the top organizational unit checked. 
  • Alternatively, you can select a child organizational unit to turn on for specific departments. 
  • Navigate to Mail delegation. 
  • Select the box for Let users delegate access to their mailbox to other users in the domain
  • As an optional setting, you can allow users to customize the information that is included in delegated email messages sent from their account, by checking the Allow users to customize this setting box. 
  • You have an option to check which email addresses are included in messages sent by a delegate: 
    • Include the address of both the account owner and the delegate who sent the email
    • Include only the address of the account owner and not the delegate
  • If you want users to be able to delegate access to a Google Group, check the Allow users to grant their mailbox access to a Google group box. 
  • Click Save to update your settings. 

If you follow these steps correctly, you will have enabled Gmail delegation for your organization or a specific department. 

How to add a delegate to your Gmail account

In Gmail, it’s relatively easy to add a new delegate to your email account. You’ll need to have their email address to hand and an idea of the permissions you want to set when delegating your email to them. 

  • First, make sure you are logged into the Gmail account you want to delegate. 
  • Select the gear icon, and then select See all settings. 
  • Select the Accounts and Import tab and scroll down. 
Accounts and import tab
  • In the Grant access to your account section, select Add another account. 
  • This will open a new window where you can enter the email address of the account you want to delegate to. 
Grant access to your account
  • Select Next step and then Send email to grant access

The user you delegate to will need to approve your request before they can have access to your account. 

How to revoke delegated access to Gmail

After you have delegated access to your Gmail account, you may want to remove delegation for some reason. You may no longer need your delegate, or the person may have left the organization. 

Follow these steps: 

  • To remove a delegate, first make sure you are logged into your Gmail account. 
  • Select the gear icon, then select See all settings. 
  • Navigate to the Accounts and Import tab and then scroll down. 
  • In the Grant access to your account section, select Delete next to the email address you want to remove. 

Your delegate will now be removed from your Gmail account. 

What settings can I manage for Gmail delegation?

When setting up Gmail delegation, there are two main settings that you can change with regards to emails sent and received for your delegate. 

Gmail delegation settings

1. Mark as read

The options are: 

  • Mark conversation as read when opened by others
  • Leave conversation unread when opened by others

This means that when users read your emails it will either show up as read, or unread, depending on your preference. 

2. Sender information

The options are: 

  • Show this address and the person who sent it (“sent by …”)
  • Show this address only (name@company.com)

This means that any email sent by a delegate will be marked with your own account email and the delegate, or sent only as the main account. 

So depending on how you want your Gmail delegation configured, you can change these two settings. 

Why is Gmail delegation not working? 

You may be wondering why Gmail delegation is not working. One likely scenario is that your workspace admin has not enabled delegation, so you will need to contact them to get this set up. Email delegation may be against the policy of your organization. 

On the other hand, your admin may have turned on email delegation but the changes have not yet come into effect – updating this setting can take up to 24 hours. 

Another scenario is that your delegate is not using the same domain as your email account, which means you will not be able to delegate to them. For example, if you are name@company.com, your delegate will also need to have an email address @company.com

Alternatively, it may be because you have exceeded the number of delegates you can add to your account. The upper limit of delegates you can add is 10 on the G-Suite Basic Plan, while Google Workspace allows you to delegate up to 1,000 accounts. 

How do I access a Gmail account as a delegate? 

Once someone sets you up as a delegate on their Gmail account, you should be sent an email asking you to click on a link to accept permission. Once that step has been completed, follow these instructions to access a delegated email account: 

  • Make sure you are logged into Gmail as the account with delegated access. 
  • Navigate to the drop down menu on the top-right hand corner of Gmail. 
  • This brings up a list of delegated access you have been given for Gmail. 
  • Select the account you want to view – you won’t need to input a username and password. 

You will then be taken to the delegated Gmail inbox. 

How to access Gmail delegated account on iPhone

If you’re using the Gmail app to access Gmail on your iPhone, you won’t be able to see any of your delegated accounts. You will need to log into Gmail through the desktop site on your mobile browser in order to view delegation in the normal way. 

Delegation is not geared towards users accessing Gmail through the iPhone mobile app. You’ll need to use this workaround if you want to access delegation on mobile. 

The limitations of using Gmail delegation

Although Gmail delegation can be useful in many situations such as where you are an individual wishing to delegate access to your assistant, you soon run into limitations that Gmail simply cannot overcome. 

Can’t delegate email to a different domain

As we’ve already discussed, email delegation can only happen when your delegate is using the same domain as you – usually, someone within the organization. If you are using an email such as name@company.com but your delegate is using name@gmail.com, email delegation won’t work. 

Must share every email in the inbox

There is no option in Gmail delegation to share only some of your emails with a delegate using this method. This means even sensitive projects can be openly viewed by anyone with a delegate access to your account. This makes obtaining support to manage your emails very tricky if you only want someone to view the particular emails that you need help with.

Email drafts cannot be shared

When email delegation is set up in Gmail, you can’t share the drafts you are working on with delegates. If you want to review a draft email, you’ll have to copy and paste the text into a third-party tool that enables collaboration and communication. This makes working on an email response together cumbersome. 

You can’t assign an email to a delegate

In Gmail, it makes sense that you will be using delegation to collaborate with others on your email. However, if someone is working on a particular email, it’s not clear that this message has been dealt with. Multiple people might start work on an email, wasting valuable time and effort – or worse, send conflicting responses to the recipient. Gmail delegation is confusing in this regard. 

As you will now see, Gmail delegation is useful for basic inbox sharing but starts to become insufficient as you use it extensively. For this reason, you might want to consider an alternative solution. 

Keeping: an alternative to Gmail delegation

Keeping: an alternative to Gmail delegation

Find yourself growing frustrated with the limits of Gmail delegation for sharing email? Is your customer service team failing at productivity because they lack the essential features of a customer service email tool? 

Keeping is a help desk extension for Gmail which enables multiple users to share an inbox, reading, responding and deleting emails as a team. Since it’s so easy for work to overlap in a shared inbox, Keeping prevents multiple users from responding to an email at the same time (collision detection) and has the ability to assign an email to a particular user. 

Even better, users can conduct conversations about specific emails right in the app, so you don’t have to switch between different tools. Vital context is retained in case different team members need to jump in to help. 

Here are just a few of Keeping’s specific features: 

  • One home for multiple shared inboxes – there’s no limit to the number of shared inboxes you can add to Keeping with role-based access for team members. 
  • Private notes keep your team synced – Keeping makes it easy to collaborate on email through mentioning team members. 
  • Confirmation receipts assure customers you’re listening – customize your own confirmation receipts to let customers know you’ve received their email. 
  • Retain ownership of all your emails – if you ever decide to leave Keeping, all your emails remain in your Gmail inbox and are yours forever. 

And more!

Wrapping up

As you will now have learned, Gmail delegation can be a great way to share your emails with another person if you are an individual. For customer service teams, however, you might want a solution that’s a little more robust. Keeping for Gmail was built for customer service, enabling team members to access a shared inbox as well as multiple email accounts. 

If you use Gmail delegation for customer service, the customer experience – as well as the agent experience – will be poor. For any number of users collaborating on email, Gmail delegation falls short of the mark because it doesn’t offer features such as collision detection, analytics, or email assignment. 

When you’re ready to move on from Gmail delegation, give Keeping a try. It’s very easy to set up and you’ll soon wonder why you didn’t make the switch before. When you master email sharing with Keeping, you’ll excel at customer service as well. 

catherine heath

Catherine is a content writer and community builder for creative and ethical companies. She often writes case studies, help documentation and articles about customer support. Her writing has helped businesses to attract curious audiences and transform them into loyal advocates. You can find more of her work at https://awaywithwords.co.

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