These features will help you manage screen time during work from home

Written by Shruti Dhapola
| New Delhi |

Updated: March 24, 2020 11:01:34 am

Work from home does not mean you spend all your time staring at a screen: Here are tips to manage your screen time better. (Image source: Getty Images)

The coronavirus pandemic means that many of us are now working from home in India. Most major Indian cities are under lockdown, and work from home has become the norm, but it comes with its own benefits and headaches. While the stress of commuting might have disappeared for sometime, many of us have new worries to deal about when working from home. There’s the issue of internet connectivity, office VPNs slowing down speeds, along with the distractions of social media and other services.

One must also factor in that since there is a lockdown, many of us are constantly scrolling some screen or other, be it the phone or desktop or even the smart TV in the living room. Since we can no longer leave our homes, the screen inevitably becomes the only source of entertainment, and it might be a good time to put some restrictions in place so that you can at least focus on other activities to keep yourself distracted.

We look at the tools you can rely on for screen management available on Android and iOS devices, along with other apps that can be useful during this period.

On users with Android Pie and Android 10

Google introduced the ‘Digital Wellbeing’ feature with Android Pie and it is available on most smartphones now. This is one of the most useful tools to restrict your usage of certain apps, and helps you gain some control if you are too addicted to the phone.

The Digital Wellbeing feature can be found in the settings apps on Google Pixel phones, and any other device running Android Pie and above, including popular phones from Samsung, Redmi, Realme, and other brands.

You can go to Digital Wellbeing in the Settings app of your smartphone and set up the Dashboard to put a time limit on each of your apps. So if you feel you are spending too much time scrolling on Facebook or Instagram, you can see a timer. Once the timer is set and you exceed the daily limit for the day, Android will then block your access to the app. The lowest limit you can set is 5 minutes, going up all the way to 24 hours.

Coronavirus outbreak, Coronavirus work from home, Managing screen, What is Apple Screen Time, Work from home distractions, Work from Home focus mode, Work from home features Google’s Digital Well being feature is useful to to limiting app usage across the Android device. (Image source: Screenshots from Android 10)

Of course, there is the option of resetting the timer, and regaining access, but one advantage with the dashboard is that you can screen out some of these apps during your work day, so you are not distracted by these during the designated work hours. Once you are done with the day, you can go to Settings and reset the timer to gain some more access should you wish to do so.

The good thing with Google’s Digital Wellbeing feature is that you can individually put a limit on each app. So if you feel you are spending too much time on Netflix or Instagram, you can restrict them individually.

Read our others tips regarding work from home and internet connectivity

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Another feature of Digital Wellbeing which might be useful in these stressful times is the Wind Down. This will implement a Night schedule from a select time period, say 10 pm to 6 am in the morning and ensure your phone does not keep buzzing with notifications. The screen goes to a grayscale, which is easier on the eyes, and Do Not Disturb (DND) mode is turned on automatically during this time.

There’s also a Focus Mode, which will pause distracting apps when you need to focus during a fixed period. So you can set a schedule, say during your work hours and choose apps that should be locked down. During that period, Android will stop access to these apps, the icon will get greyed out till focus mode is on. This can be beneficial if you find games, social media apps distracting during work hours.

Coronavirus outbreak, Coronavirus work from home, Managing screen, What is Apple Screen Time, Work from home distractions, Work from Home focus mode, Work from home features Apple’s Screen Time feature gives users control over their usage of the iPhone. (Image source: Screenshot from Apple iOS 13)

Apple iOS, MacOS Screen Time feature

Apple’s iOS and MacOS users also have the option of introducing limits on their apps with Screen Time, which was introduced with iOS 12. This will let you choose restrictions for apps based on categories, unlike Android which has options for individual apps.

Screen Time lets you set limits for Social networking, Games, Entertainment, Creativity, Productivity apps, and on websites as well. The only problem is that sometimes apps that get tagged in a category might not really be used for that purpose. One example is WhatsApp, which will be tagged under social networking, but many offices might be using it to coordinate. So you might find some apps get locked out, even though you want access to them all day.

But there is a solution. In the Always Allowed segment, you can go down and choose Apps for which you do not want any downtime or locking out.

Another useful feature is Downtime, which you can customise. During this time, only apps that you choose are allowed and phone calls will be available. You can customise it for days of the week.

There is also the option of Communication Limits, which might be particularly useful if you need to set some boundaries for after work hour calls, which can be an issue during work from home. During the downtime, you can ensure that Phone calls, Messages, FaceTime requests are restricted to specific contacts. Screen Time is also available on macOS, though you will have to set it up separately on the MacBook.

Coronavirus outbreak, Coronavirus work from home, Managing screen, What is Apple Screen Time, Work from home distractions, Work from Home focus mode, Work from home features Freedom lets you create a list of block websites on the Mac and on Windows 10 for better focus.

Freedom app

For those who want to go beyond the standard default options available on the devices, there are apps to offer this kind of control as well. Freedom is one such app, which is available on iOS, Android, MacOS and Windows 10 as well. But it is not free, and you get only seven free sessions. After that the service costs $6.99 per month or $2.42/month if you get it for one year, There’s also a $129 offer for forever, though right now it is retailing at $64.50 as part of a discount.

With Freedom, you can start a session and block all distracting websites and apps on your PC or MacBook while working. You can set the duration for how long these should be blocked, and it will ensure greater focus when you are working from home. You can set the duration for each session and the site will be blocked for that period.

Coronavirus outbreak, Coronavirus work from home, Managing screen, What is Apple Screen Time, Work from home distractions, Work from Home focus mode, Work from home features App Detox gives a range of options on how you want to ‘detox’ from a particular app. (Image source: Screenshots from the App Detox app)

App Detox

App Detox is for those of you who are still on older versions of Android, or find that the Digital Wellbeing feature is not enough to help you. The app will let you choose apps from which you want a detox, and will let you decide from specific daytimes on specific days to number of launches to usage time for a particular app.

It will also let you decide if you want to stay away from an app for a number of days. There’s also the more drastic, ‘FOREVER’ option, if you decide you don’t want to use this app again. This is only available on Android.

Moment on iOS

Moment is an app on iOS users for those who need more and Screen Time is just not helping. So when setting up the phone it will ask you what you want to do be it track screen time to stop wasting time to reduce anxiety. There’s also a Moment Coach to help you use the phone less, though it will cost Rs 689 per month. The app also has courses, though you need to subscribe into order to access these features.

Here’s a quick coronavirus guide for you to stay updated: Who all should be tested for Covid-19 and when? | How should you quarantine yourself? | How often (and how) should you clean your home? | What is the Janata Curfew announced by PM Modi? | Who are restricted from coming to India, and from when? | How long can the virus live on surfaces or in air around you? | Still more Coronavirus Q&A Explained news here

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