This is FlowLight

A Proven Method for Reducing
Costly Interruptions of Knowledge Workers

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The Problem and Solution

How long does it take for you to fall asleep?

10 minutes.
Now imagine that when you are close to falling asleep, someone walks in and interrupts you, how long will it take you to fall asleep now? Those few seconds you had left, or will you have to start again to ‘sink back’ to where you were?
I’ll have to start again.
Great. Same thing. Just like falling asleep, it takes me a while to ‘sink’ into focus mode, and it takes me a while to get back to it once I’m interrupted, except that I also forget half of what I was doing.

Reducing Interruptions at the Workplace

Various previous work has emphasized how bad constant interruptions and fragmentation of work is for knowledge workers’ productivity, the quality of their work, and also their motivation at work. When we were observing knowledge workers at their work in a previous study, we realized that signals, such as wearing headphones or closing their office door, were often used to visualize that they don’t want to be interrupted right now. However, this manual approach was often considered as quite cumbersome and not everybody was aware of these signs. Also, the long-term impact on teams and their work was unclear. This is why we developed the FlowLight, a physical traffic-light like LED combined with an automatic interruptibility measure based on computer interaction data.


In a large-scale and long-term field study with 449 participants from 12 different countries, we found, amongst other results, that the FlowLight reduced interruptions of participants by 46%, increased their awareness on the potential disruptiveness of interruptions, and most participants are still using it today!


We published our study [PDF] in the premier international conference of Human-Computer Interaction (CHI 2017).

Download the Paper

User Testimonials

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About us

We are researchers from the University of Zurich, Switzerland and ABB Corporate Research Center, United States. Our research goal is to develop a tool to help knowledge workers to reduce interruption costs, be more productive and have a pleasant experience at work.

David Shepherd

Senior Principal Scientist

Thomas Fritz

Assistant Professor

Manuela Züger


André Meyer


Boyang Li


Christopher Corley


Patrick Francis