How does your morning look like these days? You wake up, freshen up and take a bath. Then make the long, perilous walk to the study table or any other table where you have stationed your laptop. You sit down, log in and start working. Screens take your time and attention-your laptop, perhaps even a second monitor attached if you are a workaholic and your phone for sure. The hours clock by. You are looking at one screen or the other and furiously typing away on the keyboard. Zoom calls and video meetings. The kids are home too and need to be entertained or kept busy somehow. All this while, there is that lingering thought in your head that somehow you have something to prove about being productive while working from home. It’s all just getting too much? Actually, step back for a moment and breathe. And surely not at the cost of your health. You just don’t need to start working more now, just because you’re working remotely.
This is the scenario which millions who are working from home, because of the lockdown in many countries to arrest the spread of the Coronavirus, have gone through in the past few weeks. We don’t know how long this will last, but one thing is already clear—don’t burn yourself out. Our eyes are perhaps worse off too, because of the constant screen time. And if you don’t have enough will power, allow the technology solutions to ensure you stay away from screens for a while. What Apple, Google and Microsoft are offering in terms of help to limit your screen time, is all the more relevant in these work from home times.
Apple iPhone, iPad and Mac users, this is the tool for you
Apple has something called the Screen Time, available on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and any Mac computing device you may be using. You can set this up for yourself and also for children who you feel may perhaps be spending too much time on their iPad or iPhone, for instance. You get the flexibility to set app limits according to genre (social networking, games, reading or all apps, for instance) or choose specific apps installed on that device already. In either case, you can set the maximum time these apps will be accessible through the day, for each day of the week. Don’t want distractions? Limit Netflix from 9am to 5pm on weekdays. There is also the Downtime option, which you can define by presetting the time range, and that’ll be enabled system wide.
It is all about quality within that quantity
It is not just keeping your phone down or walking away from your PC will do the trick. Researchers at the University of Melbourne have found that what you are doing on your phone, for instance, also matters a lot. You’ll likely be in a happier mood if your time has been productive—uninterrupted work which means you are on track with the deadlines, a conversation with a loved one or perhaps even reading a book or listening to music. On the flipside, you’ll likely to be in a sour mood having spent time on Facebook or read too much news. “it might be more beneficial to increase meaningful use of screen devices, rather than merely decrease the amount of time spent on screens,” they say.
Google cares about your Digital Wellbeing, Android users
Google has solutions for the Android phones too, at least those running the recent versions of Android, called Digital Wellbeing. It is actually not a bad idea to create a Work profile in your phone, which will hide away the video streaming, music streaming and game distractions as you work. Equally, you can avoid getting dragged into work stuff in the after-hours. You have a Dashboard which shows exactly how much time you have been spending doing on your phone. Data doesn’t lie. Too much time on messaging apps and social media perhaps? It’ll tell you. At this point, set timers or limits for apps so that you don’t get carried away and waste half a day on YouTube. The app allows you to also set screen time limits for your child’s device.
Microsoft has a versatile solution too, for Windows, Xbox and Android phones
Across its Windows 10 operating system, the Xbox gaming console as well as Android phones, Microsoft also has the screen time controls that you can use or you child uses. For Android specifically, you must download the Microsoft Launcher skin for it to work. Within your Microsoft Account, you set up specific limits for all apps and games—in terms of total time in the day, a specific window during the day or by genre that limits apps of a specific category beyond a predefined point.
You need to spend time with the kids, no getting around it
“It’s not how long we’re using screens that really matters; it’s how we’re using them and what’s happening in our brains in response,” says Pediatrician Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital, associate professor of pediatrics at HMS, and associate professor of social and behavioral sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health while speaking with the Harvard Medical School. Too much screen time can be particularly bad for children. Rich believes parents should look at a child's day as a 24-hour empty glass, reports the USA Today. That cup of time should be filled with a diverse menu of experiences, he suggests, with particular emphasis on what activities a child may be avoiding because there is no screen available.
Think about it. Between work, gaming, a bit of streaming on Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar and the inevitable snacking on YouTube, there is just too much screen time involved. Every day. It is not good for you. It is not good for the kids. What if you send a delayed reply to an email? What if you aren’t always ‘online’ to reply to a message? Your colleagues will think you are shirking work? Look, give your eyes a break. Help your children stay away from screens. Boundaries are important. For work and play.