Hate Your Open Office? This Simple Do-Not-Disturb Light May Help You Focus

It analyzes your productivity and changes color when you’re actually working versus browsing Facebook. This might backfire.

One reason most people hate open offices is pretty obvious: Without an office door to close or at least a cubicle to hide in, it’s easy for coworkers to stop by with a constant stream of interruptions. One solution? A do-not-disturb light that perches on your laptop and automatically turns red when you’re focused on a deadline.


The idea was the brainchild of a Latvian startup that was struggling with its own open office setup. “One day my cofounder, who was coding at that moment, got angry that I was asking him questions during coding sessions,” says Kristians Licis, managing director of GreyNut, the startup that created the device. “I said I needed some indication of when I can talk with him and when I shouldn’t.”

The LED light they designed, called Luxafor, connects with productivity apps that analyze when you’re working and when you’re browsing Facebook or Youtube. “When you’re using the productivity apps, the indicator automatically goes red, meaning you’re busy and shouldn’t be disturbed,” says Licis. “But when you’re resting and browsing Facebook, it goes green, meaning that you’re open for a conversation.” The device also lets you manually change colors.

Of course, the question is whether your coworkers will actually stop bothering you when they see the light turn red. Even online in chat programs, my own do-not-disturb dot is routinely ignored. But when GreyNut tested the device in its office, they say the system worked.

“At first, people didn’t know that they needed to respect the red light, but after some two or three days and some explanation, they started to came and ask questions only when green light was on,” Licis explains. “Then we understood that we had something.”

The gadget might even help you stop interrupting yourself: The light can be set to flash when you get a new email or anything else important, so you’re not constantly checking your inbox.

The company is currently raising funds on Kickstarter. And they’re hoping that this is the kind of tweak that can help save open offices–which, after all, still have some advantages. “An open office is a great place to work because you always know what’s going on,” says Licis. “But Luxafor gives you much-needed ‘do not disturb’ time to get real work done.”


About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.