Late-night emails from the boss could be easier to ignore after Apple announced an iPhone update that silences messages from the office at the end of the working day.
A software update in the coming months will introduce a “Focus mode” that stops devices from sending notifications from certain contacts or apps in an attempt to battle employee burnout.
Users can activate different modes, such as one for work and one for home, that will limit alerts depending on the time of day or location.
The feature is designed as an antidote to the always-on culture that modern smartphones and apps have been accused of fostering by allowing managers to contact their staff at any time.
White collar employees working from home have complained of longer working hours and finding it more difficult to switch off while being perceived as always available. Some countries are introducing “right to disconnect” practices that aim to ensure a work life balance by limiting how employees have to perform work outside of their normal hours.
The Focus mode in Apple’s new iOS 15 operating system, due to be released later this year, will allow iPhone owners to activate a personal setting that will hide apps such as emails or office chat services from the home screen.
They will be able to schedule the mode to coincide with work hours, or location, such as when somebody leaves the office or arrives at home.
The iOS 15 focus mode settings
They will also be able to add a do not disturb notice to Apple’s messages app, so that anyone attempting to follow an email with a text message will be alerted to their status.
While emails and messages will still go through, users will not be alerted to them unless they deactivate the mode or deliberately check them.
Studies have suggested the average working day has lengthened by as much as two hours during the pandemic with staff more able to carry on into the evening as they work from home.
In April, Ireland introduced a code of practice that said employees could not be penalised for refusing to routinely work outside of their normal hours, including answering emails and phone calls. France, Italy and Spain have also attempted to introduce laws letting staff disconnect, although they have been seen as difficult to enforce as more people work from home.
Apple’s software update will also allow people to upload their driving licence to their smartphone for the first time, raising the prospect of people being able to leave their home and travel without their wallet.
The iPhone will be able to scan a licence and include it in the device’s Wallet app that also stores credit cards and plane boarding cards. Apple said it was working with US authorities on allowing the virtual licences to be used as proof of identity for domestic flights that do not need a passport.
The feature is likely to arrive in the UK in future. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has previously worked on digitising driving licences so they can be stored on a phone.
Would being able to silence emails from the office stop you from feeling burnt out? Tell us in the comments section below