We all chuckled at "BBC Dad," aka Robert Kelly, the political science professor whose children crashed his BBC interview. Nowadays, many people working from home feel his pain.
My coworkers' children, aerodynamic cats, and even chickens have appeared on some of my video calls. And while their guest appearances bring me joy, the person on the other end is usually less amused.
Since we've been 100 percent remote at Zapier from the start, my coworkers have some really neat automation tips for almost every remote work problem you can think of. So how do you deal with housemates interrupting your calls? My favorite solution so far—an automatic "on-air" sign. All you need is a Philips Hue light and Zapier to set it up.
You'll need a Zapier account to use the workflows in this piece. If you don't have an account yet, it's free to get started.
Let your household know when you're available
TV and radio stations use "on-air" signs that light up when there's a live recording in the studio. It's great at preventing people from barging in on a recording or at least letting them know they need to tiptoe quietly.
My colleague Doug set up his own sign outside his home office using a Philips Hue light strip. He uses a Zap—what we call our automated workflows—to connect his Google Calendar to his Hue light. When he's in a meeting, the light turns red. When he's booked time on his calendar for focus, the light switches to yellow. When his calendar is empty, it turns green, giving the OK for interruptions.
Does it work with his family? Sort of. "Sometimes a meeting ends early and they can tell I'm not on Zoom, so it's not a perfect system," Doug says.
Doug is the head of engineering and the Zaps he uses are...what you'd expect from an engineer.
Zapier employees sometimes do some wild stuff with Zaps. Doug has shared the Zaps he uses to run his light schedule, turn off his light at the end of a meeting, handle scheduling conflicts, and reset his lights at the beginning of the day.
This simple Zap will get you started:
To get started with a Zap template—what we call our pre-made workflows—just click on the Use this Zap button, and we'll guide you through customizing it. It only takes a few minutes. You can read more about setting up Zaps here.
You can achieve a similar effect with any wall sconce. Or if you want a little whimsy, you can make your own cloud, like my coworker Adam.
Other ways to use smart lights
If an on-air sign isn't your thing—or you prefer the old-fashioned door-to-the-face for peace—there are other ways my colleagues automate their smart lights for remote work.
Set moods for different activities
One of the great things about Philips Hue lights is that you can set whatever vibe you want. Want your room to be hot pink? You can create a scene for it. It was great for parties in the before times, but you can also use it for remote work like my colleagues Joe and Laurie.
"My lights turn blue when I’m in the support queue," says Joe. "When I’m in a meeting, they turn Zapier orange and for project time, they turn green."
Laurie does double duty with her Zap, controlling her lights and her Slack status with each meeting. "I created a bunch of scenes for different types of meetings," she says. "So a bright light pointed at my face for video calls or a mellow light for all-company meetings."
Try Laurie's Shared Zap to control her Hue lights and Slack status.
Handle your work schedule
Another great thing about smart lights is that you can set them to run on different schedules, whether it's with the sun, a clock, or whether you're home or not.
At first, I used the built-in app to handle my work schedule, but sometimes my lights wouldn't turn on. I also found it annoying to constantly go to the app to turn things on and off.
I work a regular 9-5 schedule except for Mondays, where I shift my schedule earlier. To keep up with my variable schedule, I use a system of Zaps to power my smart lights in my office according to my work schedule.
My Zap also turns off my lights at the end of the workday, doubling as "closing time" so I don't remain chained to my computer. I've been plunged into darkness when I've been on calls that go over, which always gets a fun reaction from coworkers.
Let there be light
This is just the start of all that you can do with Philips Hue and Zapier. Zapier supports thousands of apps, so you can automate tasks and build systems to support your work. Start building your Zap now and see what you can create.
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