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Would Enterprise Screen Time force employees to unplug?

Apple released Screen Time initially with iOS 12, and it has continued to refine it since. I’ve enjoyed using it as a parent with my children’s iPad as a way to automatically disable their devices after a certain amount of time. Since then, we’ve had various articles looking at how Apple could improve Screen Time. Ben Lovejoy argued that a Screen Time API would allow third-party developers to expand beyond what Apple has built. I mentioned last December that I would love to see some enhanced Safari filtering options, iMessage history, and more. After I attended JNUC 2019, I started wondering what Screen Time for the enterprise might look like if Apple released it.

About Apple @ Work: Bradley Chambers has been managing an enterprise IT network since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing firewalls, switches, a mobile device management system, enterprise-grade Wi-Fi, 100s of Macs, and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple IT managers deploy Apple devices, build networks to support them, train users, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for IT departments.


It’s clear that Apple is growing in the enterprise. A few weeks back, it became known that all of the Fortune 500 companies now use Apple products. IBM is reporting startling information on how Mac users perform at work as well.

What if Apple offered an Enterprise Screen Time API to use through its mobile device management APIs that companies like Jamf use? You might be thinking, no Bradley, I don’t want my company to be able to lock me out of my Podcast app after a certain amount of time. That’s not what I am thinking about (while that could certainly be a possibility). I am thinking about companies forcing their employees to disconnect and unplug from work.

Vacation mode for email

When an employee goes on vacation, companies could leverage the Enterprise Screen Time API to automatically disable company email for vacations or company holidays. If I had employees reporting to me who are going on vacation, I want them to disconnect and recharge.

The tendency is to “check in” to make sure there are no fires to put out, but companies can survive if one person is on vacation. The mode would take the pressure employees to stay connected to work, and also set the expectation that those not on vacation should figure out a way to solve problems. This feature should also extend to company CRM apps, file apps, etc.

iMessage auto-response

scheduled iMessage feature

iMessage has, for better or worse, become a key communication tool for a lot of organizations. I argued back in September that Apple could evolve iMessage to be better suited for a task it’s being used for today. Another feature for an Enterprise Screen Team API would be auto-responses during “vacation mode” for any contact from a company address book.

By getting my contacts separated into work and personal connections, iMessage could then evolve to help you manage notifications when it’s less convenient. Right now, someone sending you an iMessage has no idea if you are on vacation, at your desk, at lunch, in a meeting, on a sales call, etc. Apple has already built DND while driving, so I’d love to be able to enable this for when I am not available. Let’s say that I take the day off work. A lot of my coworkers might not realize that I am not in the building. If I am at a movie with my family, I could set a DND with an auto-response to let my coworkers know that I am on a personal day and to email me instead. This feature would be great for vacations so I could enable it like I would an out of office reply on my email.

Companies could enable this automatically so that employees wouldn’t even see their corporate iMessages while on vacation, and the other employees wouldn’t even bother sending them because they would be hidden.

Forced downtime using Enterprise Screen Time

One of the features I loved about my Treo 700W was the ability to turn off syncing of email at a specific time/day. I would leave my email syncing on from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday-Friday. Outside of that window, I could still see it, but I would have to sync it manually. I would love to see a similar feature come to an Enterprise Screen Time API.

Ideally, a company would be able to control that after a specific time of the day, corporate email is not available for push alerts and will require manual sync. Second, I’d want to be able to completely block email access at a certain point in the evening and block before 7:00 AM. It would look like this, from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM, email push alerts are available. From 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM, email is available, but only with manual sync. From 10:00 PM to 7:00 AM, email access is completely blocked. This feature ideally would extend to all corporate apps, as well.

Wrap-up on Enterprise Screen Time API

What do you think about some of these suggestions for an Enterprise Screen Time? I think they would be a big hit with employees who would know there is no expectation to be available 24/7. Ideally, these features would be tied to the time zone the user is in as well as many companies operate globally. I imagine that Apple would build out the API, and then the MDM vendors would put their UI on top of it. I’d love to hear your comments below.

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