“It brings more awareness to what people are doing. Sometimes people take it for granted that people are always interruptible. But there is actually a cost or a penalty when you interrupt someone. So, I think just the concept is good because it reminds people that there is sometimes a good time and a bad time to interrupt people. So, I think just from an awareness campaign, it’s valuable as well.” -Interview #20
Modern offices are dominated by creative workers. Programmers, designers, analysts, and engineers. These creative workers need long blocks of time to tackle the cognitively demanding activities that their jobs require. Unfortunately, they are constantly interrupted via chat messages, drop-in visitors and notifications, causing stress and sapping their productivity. According to UC Irvine professor Gloria Mark each of these interruptions require an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds of recovery time.
To eliminate these distractions, we introduce FlowLight. FlowLight is an application that runs in the background on a user’s computer, automatically detecting when they are most focused and then changing their status accordingly. While the user is most active, FlowLight discourages remote interruptions by dynamically updating the user’s digital availability as well as discouraging local interruptions by changing the color status of the USB powered FlowLight Bulb
To evaluate the FlowLight's effectiveness we partnered with the University of Zurich to perform an 18 month field study with over 400 participants from 12 different countries. This study showed that the FlowLight eliminated 46% of interruptions, that 85% of participants continued using it after the two month trial, and that users appreciated its impact, claiming that "[the FlowLight caused] less interruptions both in person and via Skype. [resulting] in more focus and ability to finish work.
Reducing interruptions with the FlowLight is just the first step in our work to redefine the modern workplace. Our ultimate mission is this: to foster flow at work.
David Shepherd leverages software engineering research to create useful additions to the IDE.