Protecting your personal time
There’s a difference between being away on holiday, and just being at home in the evening on a regular working day, and here are a few ways to deal with each scenario.
If you're going to be away for a while, the best way to disengage is not to take a work or work-connected laptop with you! But if you do, there are some built-in and easy to use Windows or Mac tools for escaping from the frequent 'ping' of notifications:
- Windows 10: Start > Settings > System > Notifications & actions. Turn them all off, then turn back on any individual apps you want to allow through. (Or vice versa.)
- Window 11 now has a proper Do not Disturb feature. Here’s a short and helpful article.
- Apple has something similar.
These can also be pre-scheduled, so you could choose to have them kick-in at the end of every work day and run overnight.
(NB. these are per device settings. This isn’t a way to stop, say, Teams from sending notifications, rather these settings tell your device what to do with them when they arrive.)
Phones and other handhelds
For many people though, it’s more likely to affect a phone or tablet. While you might not want Teams or Outlook notifications, you may still want to hear from, say, gmail and WhatsApp.
Both Android and iOS devices have a really quick and easy Do Not Disturb mode, though by default they will catch everything. It is then possible to set exceptions to let some back in, but these things do always need a bit of fiddling. (There may be a bit of a problem if you use the phone's native mail app for both work and personal email. You could choose to change your setup to separate them, perhaps by using the Outlook app for work content, and the built-in mailer only for personal.)
A tool to help
There used to be a free version* of an app called Freedom which is designed to work ‘the other way round’ ie. it was built to allow users to stop themselves being distracted from work by Facebook, TikTok, Netflix, whatever. While it has pre-sets for many of the obvious time-hoovers, it is possible to choose any website, or installed app, which means it could be used in reverse, so to speak, to block work sites and apps, and allow play and leisure time instead. For example, adding office.com to the block list should stop access to, and notifications from, Teams and so on.
It is possible to set time windows, so that stuff is locked out for an hour, a day, 4.5 hours each working day, and so on. (You can even double-lock it so that there is literally no possible override if you get tempted.) It runs on Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android, and can be sync-ed across all your devices.
Again, if you use the same mail app for work and private, blocking that app will obviously block (that route to) both accounts.
Many people in the corporate world use two phones – often because the organisation won’t allow non-work use of a device they have provided. While this doesn't generally apply in our sphere, it is possible for Android (but not iPhone) users to set up multiple user profiles on their devices. This obviously opens up the possibility of having a personal profile and a work profile, with only the latter offering a (direct) route to the work-related apps. (Alternatively, and actually probably easier to set up in the first place, leave the existing profile as it is - with access to everything - and create a weekend/holiday profile, which doesn't include the work stuff.)
Here is an article with step-by-step instructions.
* No longer available for free, unfortunately. It is now just about $40/yr for an individual licence.