Using Philips Hue to reduce distraction in the office

January 23rd, 2018

Ever been on an important demo call with a big prospect when someone yells "soup is just wet salad!" in the room next door? "What kind of operation are you running over there?" asks the prospect. Suddenly the whole deal is called into question. All because of soup. Damn you, soup.

Our office has some meeting rooms that are centrally-located around the kitchen. While a call is happening, sometimes kitchen chatter can be overheard. It's distracting on our end and can seem unprofessional to the person we're calling.

All calls in shared rooms are scheduled ahead of time, but it's easy to not notice when one is happening. We came up with the idea of developing a system like the "ON AIR" lights you see at radio stations: if the light's on, save the "is soup food?" debate until the light goes back to normal.

The System

Expected behavior:
When an important call is happening, lights in the kitchen are red. Otherwise, they're white, and it's safe to talk.

Software used:

  • Slack
  • Zapier [^1]
  • Google Sheets

Hardware used:

  • 2x Philips Hue lightbulbs (1st generation)


  1. Create a new Zap in Zapier that monitors the #office channel on our Slack team for any mentions of '#demo'. For each mention, add a row to the DEMO ON Google Sheet.
  2. In IFTTT, create a new Applet that monitors the DEMO ON Google Sheet for any new rows. If a row is added to the sheet, change the color of the "Demo Room" Hue bulb to #d52a44 (red).
  3. Similar to step 1, create a new Zap that looks for mentions of '#demooff'. For each mention, add a row to the DEMO OFF Google Sheet.
  4. Similar to step 2, create a new Applet that monitors the DEMO OFF sheet for new rows, changing the color of the "Demo Room" Hue bulb back to #f0c080 (white).
  5. Repeat steps above, using #studio instead of #demo for the Studio Room light.

How to use:

  • When you're hopping on a call, go into the #office channel and type #demo or #studio (depending on which room you're in). About 30 seconds later, the light will change to red, indicating that everyone should watch their volume.

  • When the call is complete, post #demooff or #studiooff in the #office channel to change the lights back to white, and let the soup debate continue.

[^1] We're at our integration limit in Slack, and already use Zapier for other integrations, so we continued to use it for this. It's possible to just use IFTTT to monitor for hashtags in Slack rather than Zapier -> Sheets -> IFTTT.