This Genius Invention Will Finally Get Your Co-Workers To Leave You Alone

When headphones aren’t enough.

We all have our own version of do-not-disturb mode at the office: putting your headphones in, setting your Slack status to ‘away,’ etc. Now a computer scientist from the University of British Columbia has created a hard-to-ignore way to tell your colleagues not to interrupt you: a desk light that switches from green to red when you’re heads-down on work.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

The light is called FlowLight and it uses your keyboard and mouse activity to determine whether you’re in green mode (i.e. available to chat) or red mode (stay away — I’m working). The fact that the lamp doesn’t require you to flip a switch is critical, according to creator Thomas Fritz, PhD, an assistant professor of computer science at UBC. It minimizes distractions and let’s you get into a flow uninterrupted.

Preliminary research also suggests that the lamp really does dissuade colleagues from interrupting one another mid-task. Fritz tested it with 450 employees of ABB Inc., an international engineering company. (Before the lamp, employees resorted to putting actual traffic cones on their desk when they needed to focus, according to a press release about FlowLight.) Employees reported fewer interruptions and a shift in office culture where people became more mindful of disturbing each other. Fritz will be presenting his findings at CHI 2017, a conference presented by the Association for Computing Machinery.

Since typing and mouse movement around aren’t the only signs that someone is laser-focused on a task, Fritz is working on more advanced versions of the light that could take into account “heart rate variability, pupil dilation, eye blinks or even brain wave activity,” according to the press release. In the meantime, let’s all try to be more respectful of each other’s time and energy, and when someone looks like they’re trying to focus, let them do it.

Read more about the light here.