iOS feature request: Do Not Disturb Pro

We need an easy way to separate work life from our own life – especially now.

Apple, iOS, remote working, collaboration, covid-19, Apple, iPhone, iPad, iOS 14, iOS 12
Jaredd Craig (CC0)

When it comes to controlling the clamor, Apple’s Do Not Disturb mode gives you feast or famine in terms of handling the avalanche of incoming work-related communications. One thing we’ve learned as we work remotely is that this needs to improve.

Apple, are you listening?

How can we improve Do Not Disturb?

Do Not Disturb fails to provide the kind of granular control you need if you’re trying to separate personal and professional lives.

The need to work remotely during the pandemic has generated problems for some of us. Employers seem to think people who work for them should always be available, while people you work with seem to expect immediate responses to instant messages and emails.

Both attitudes generate stress that gets in the way for people trying to maintain a healthy balance while working at home. That balance is even more important at the moment, given that most people are juggling work with the additional family responsibilities that come from home schooling and lockdown living during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We want to receive our personal communications, messages and app updates after we stop work, but don’t want our time disturbed by work-related matter.

[Also read: An Apple-centric guide to effective (and productive) remote working]

After all, work/life balance is always important. But it’s super important when you’re stressed out by other problems.

Can Do Not Disturb help?

Apple’s Do Not Disturb lets you silence your calls, alerts and notifications. You enable it by tapping the crescent moon icon in Control Center. It lets you schedule how long you want to be in the mode, and you have some slightly more granular controls – you can permit incoming calls from contacts in ‘Favorites,' for example.

However, you can’t really dig deep into separating work from personal existence – even if you are using an enterprise-issued device equipped with app profiles and company contacts books.

(That is something you actually can do on Android, thanks to the Work Profile tool).

While there are some workarounds, I don’t think they quite match the needs:

However, both of these methods are a little clunky and time-consuming for this purpose, mainly because they aren’t designed to support it. After all, you might use some apps for both work and personal time, making it difficult to figure out how to define communication preferences.

This is a missing feature

I do know there’s a demand for this, as I’ve received feedback to this effect from someone deeply involved in enterprise IT using Apple’s platforms.

He complained:

“With workforces currently being more or less 100 percent remote, people are struggling to find a work/life balance even more than before. Even if you try to “call it a day” say at 7pm, you’d still get interrupted with work notifications from email or other messengers or workflow apps etc.., iPhones in essence don’t have a concept of disconnecting after hours.”

He’s right, of course.

Those kinds of work environments are ultimately unproductive.

What can we do?

The hacked-together approach suggested above may help. There are also apps (Divide, for example) that try to take you in this direction, but they aren’t perfect either.

As it stands, on iOS, if you try to separate work from personal life you will inevitably miss some calls and messages you might want to receive and will almost certainly find yourself needing to override app Screen Time settings.

Someone needs to figure something out.

There’s a huge need for it, because remote working does not and should not mean always available. The promise of technology is that it will free us to focus on other things, not leave us imprisoned in endless travail.

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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