John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The glowing laptop accessory is meant to increase productivity in distracting open offices.
Is there anything more frustrating than a coworker sauntering up and, you know, actually trying to converse? If you feel this way perhaps you'll want a Luxafor: a shining beacon that lets people know when you're available to talk and when they should keep their frickin' distance and let you work.
This $21 broadcast system for misanthropes—or "ultimate productivity device" if you're trying to fund it on Kickstarter—is the brainchild of Latvian techies who work in an open office, that vaunted feng shui-ish system for employee collaboration. Before coming up with the gadget, they had faced so many unwanted intrusions from each other that they took to putting out angry red flags and "Do Not Disturb" signs. They write:
A study from the University of California found that interruptions at work greatly influence worker's productivity. The Guardian even calculated that if you're interrupted 16 times during an eight-hour day, you may as well stay at bed, because an average worker needs about 25 minutes to get back into the work flow after an interruption. So we created Luxafor as a solution for this problem people often face in co-working spaces and open offices. Luxafor lets you avoid disruptful [sic] conversations, and keep focus on the work you're doing.
That Guardian piece they cite concludes that maintaining privacy in an open office can come down to being "rude, cold, and dismissive until colleagues are terrified to come near you." The Luxafor isn't dread-inspiring, but it is pretty rude. The device glows green to tell the world you're OK with being approached, and red when the invisible introvert shield around your desk must not be breached. It can also sync via USB or Bluetooth to flash when new emails and notifications roll in.
The Luxafor is still far from reaching its funding goal, but Kickstarter commenters seem excited by it. One of them even notes a possible side use (and let's take a moment to feel for this dude, who must wish the office dress code allowed sunglasses): "You might look at marketing this product to workers in the deaf community. I have a deaf employee that I work with, and to get his attention I send him an instant message or email, and if that doesn't work, I actually use a flashlight to manually get his attention."