Read receipts are a convenient way to see if someone has received your email—and opened it. In some cases, the information simply reassures you that your email wasn’t lost, and gives you an expectation on when you might expect a response. In others, it’s a way to track how long it takes for your recipient to take action on an issue.

Whatever your motivation is, setting up read receipts in Gmail is a fairly straightforward process.

First, you should know that not all Gmail users have access to read receipts. The feature is only available for users with a work or school account; if you’re an everyday user without a custom domain name, you won’t be able to enable or use read receipts. If you’re confused about what counts as a work or school account, consider whether you’re using an email address that ends with @gmail.com, or a custom domain name like @company.com or @university.edu, — if you’re using an @gmail.com account, then you likely don’t have access to enabling read receipts.

How to Enable Read Receipts in Gmail as an Admin

You can set up Gmail read receipts within your organization only if you’re an administrator. If you have administrative privileges, you can get things established in five simple steps:

1. Sign in. First, sign in to your Google Admin console. You might have a separate account with administrative privileges, so make sure you’re using that one.

2. Head to User settings. From the home page, follow this path to get to User settings: Apps > G Suite > Gmail > User settings.

3. Select the appropriate organization. This step only applies to you if you’ve created suborganizations in your Admin console. If you haven’t, you can move on to the next step. If you have, head to the Organizations list on the left side of the console, and select the specific organizational unit for which you’re configuring this setting.

4. Specify users to enable. Now, head to the “Email read receipts” section, where you’ll be able to toggle the read receipts feature on or off for different groups of users. You have several options here, including “Do not allow read receipts to be sent,” which disables all requesting and returning of read receipts for your users.

You can also choose “Allow email read receipts to be sent to all addresses in my organization as well as the following email addresses.” By default, when you select this option, all users within your organization will be capable of sending and receiving receipts. You’ll also have the power to restrict responses to addresses within your domain, and can add external addresses to make them capable of sending and receiving read receipts to/from your own users. By default, your users will also send read receipts automatically under this option; you’ll have to check “Prompt the user for each read receipt request” to give readers the option.

Your final choice here is “Allow email read receipts to be sent to any email address,” which allows unlimited read receipt requests and returns involving addresses within your organization, including correspondence with addresses outside your organization.

5. Click save. When you’re satisfied with your options, click save to finalize and apply the changes.

After you’ve enabled read receipts for your organization, you’ll want to educate your users how to use them if you want to maximize their email productivity.

Requesting a Gmail Read Receipt

Once enabled, requesting a read receipt is an easy process:

  • Click compose, as you normally would to start an email draft.
  • Add participants and draft your message, again, as you normally would.
  • Click “More options,” before you send the message.
  • Click “Request read receipt.” Note that you’ll only see this option if read receipts are enabled in your organization. If you don’t see it, you won’t have access to it.
  • Send the message. Your recipient may send a read response automatically upon opening the message, or may manually send the receipt. Either way, when the receipt is sent, you’ll see it in your inbox for each message recipient (with some exceptions, which I cover below).

Returning a Gmail Read Receipt

Depending on the administrator settings you’ve chosen, your account may send out a read receipt automatically once you open the message. Otherwise, if you have to manually approve the receipt, you’ll be prompted with two options:

  • Send receipts allows you to send an immediate read receipt to the sender.
  • Not now allows you to delay sending a receipt. You’ll have the option of sending a receipt the next time you open the message.

If you don’t see these options, it means your receipt was already sent, or Gmail read receipts aren’t enabled in your organization.

When Gmail Read Receipts Don’t Work

First, you should know that Gmail read receipts aren’t designed as a foolproof way to verify delivery, or that someone has read your message. They work as intended across most email systems, but there are still some exceptions; for example, you might get a read receipt if your recipient is using an IMAP email client and marks your message as “read” without really opening it.

You may also get no read receipt even after a person has read your email, such as with the following instances:

  • You’ve sent a message to a group mailing list. While read receipts are supported when you have multiple recipients in the CC field, they won’t work for a group list.
  • Gmail read receipts are restricted in some way. Your administrator has control over who can send and receive read receipts, and when.
  • Your recipient uses an email platform that doesn’t sync in real-time. For example, POP clients only sync on demand, and therefore won’t return a read receipt with reliable timing.
  • Your recipient has the option of not sending a receipt, and has chosen not to send one. It can (and does) happen.

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