Create your own home office work status light with Raspberry Pi

If you’re working from home and you have children, you’re probably finding it all pretty demanding at the moment. Spreadsheets and multiple tabs and concentrating aren’t nearly so manageable without the dedicated workspace you have at the office and with, instead, small people vying relentlessly for your attention.

And that’s not to mention the horror that is arranging video conference calls and home life around one another. There’s always the danger that a housemate (young offspring or otherwise) might embarrassingly crash your formal party like what happened to Professor Robert Kelly live on BBC News. (See above. Still funny!)

Well, Belgian maker Elio Struyf has created a homemade solution to mitigate against such unsolicited workspace interferences: he built a status light that integrates with Microsoft Teams so that his kids know when he’s on a call and they should stay away from his home office.

DIY busy light created with Raspberry Pi and Pimoroni Unicorn pHAT

The light listens to to Elio’s Microsoft Teams status and accordingly displays the colour red if he’s busy chatting online, yellow if his status is set to ‘Away’, or green if he’s free for his kids to wander in and say “Hi”.

Here’s what you need to build your own:

The Pimoroni Unicorn pHAT has an 8×4 grid of RGB LEDs that Elio set to show a single colour (though you can tell them to display different colours). His Raspberry Pi runs DietPi, which is a lightweight Debian distro. On top of this, running Homebridge makes it compatible with Apple’s HomeKit libraries, which is how Elio was able to connect the build with Microsoft Teams on his MacBook.

Elio’s original blog comprehensively walks you through the setup process, so you too can try to manage your home working plus domestic duties. All you need is to get your five-year-old to buy into your new traffic-light system, and with that we wish you all the luck in the world.

And give Elio a follow on Twitter. Fella has mad taste in T-shirts.


Faisal Abidi avatar

Its an amazing idea and i love this.

Elio Struyf avatar

Thanks, it works flawlessly for the last weeks

Kevin Cantrell avatar

This is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. A project like this is better for a tiny ESP8266

Mr.BiggyBear avatar

I was just thinking that same thing, unless you are utilizing it as a server and a status light.
I like putting led strips on the doorframe then you could use it as a do not disturb light. ??

Elio Struyf avatar

My first idea was to hang my server next to the door with a status light, but the Rasberry Pi Zero was smaller.

Joking aside, this works for me, and I just had to use things that I already knew. Don’t know anything about the ESP8266 hardware, but feel free to describe to me how you would build it. I would love to test it out. #AlwaysKeepImproving

For me, it needs to run a simple API that switches the status of the light and connects to my WiFi.

Mr.BiggyBear avatar

If you’ve had experience 2ith arduino the esp8266 is not too different.
For the pi, just run a node or django api server. And with that, if you are wanting to try your hand at using the esp8266, just set it up as a server that you pi calls. You can have multiple addresses corresponding to different action. In this case led colors.

Jeremy Chappell avatar

Err, this might also be pretty useful in a more normal “non-home, work” setting. Putting this outside your office door seems very useful.

Elio Struyf avatar

Indeed, that would work as well. I mainly work from home, so this solution will stay in place.

Janet avatar

Normally a sock on the door handle is enough

Mr.BiggyBear avatar

You don’t have to supply power to a sock!

Elio Struyf avatar

Don’t have red and green socks ?‍♂️ – and probably they cost more than the Raspberry Pi Zero ?. BTW, what is the fun in hanging a sock, if you can automate it? My kids are allowed to come in when it’s green and they gently knock when it’s red. The light is fully automated so that I don’t have to push any buttons anymore.

Melina avatar

Attach a servo to the pi that waves a red or green sock based on your status ?

Jordan avatar

Best comment I’ve seen today. Well done.

Ricardo Teixeira Corrêa avatar

It isn’t easier to use an amazing thing called Key?

Elio Struyf avatar

We respect privacy in our house, which means we never lock doors. Use what works for you. If it’s a key, keep on using it ?

Joe avatar

This is great. Now how do I get my 2 yr old to abide by this.

Melina avatar

Attach a camera to the pi, use a facial recognition software, if light is red fire a nerf gun. ?

justin avatar

My dad used to close his door in the home office which on the old days of graphic design meant a darkroom which I was welcome to watch if i kept the door closed. my point is if they can’t remember ‘the door is closed rule’ they wont obey a light.

Robert avatar

Thanks Elio! I love this idea and can’t wait to get the pieces together to give it a try. Be safe.

Elio Struyf avatar

Thanks Robert! Appreciated.

Tony avatar

Cool project!

Paul Beech avatar

Hey folks! It was dumb luck that the week this came out, we released a new Unicorn Mini HAT that makes this whole process a lot easier and adds MOAR PIXELS!
We’ll attempt to make a guide using this new thing for everyone who loved this idea :D

Liz Upton avatar

Oh cool cool cool – drop us a line when your guide’s available!

Elio Struyf avatar

That’s an amazing hat! I would love to test it out.

Steve Read avatar

More Free advertising for Pimoroni – must admit, hasn’t been much for a while so it was only expected.

Liz Upton avatar

That’s quite extravagantly mean-spirited! The product the maker used happens to be made by a company that makes a lot of Raspberry Pi add-ons which are really, really popular in our community (for a whole host of good reasons). We’re not going to avoid mentioning something or its manufacturer (you’ll see a lot of other third-party products mentioned here which are made by other organisations) for reasons of…actually, I’m not sure *what* your reasons for having the hump here are.

I’m immensely proud that Raspberry Pi has enabled a bunch of other companies to find success in making things for makers. These things pay workers’ salaries, put food on the table and allow us all to collaborate in something bigger than ourselves.

Tony avatar

Fantastic idea, I will try it myself. But I will probably be back at work before I can set this up.

Ed Tucker avatar

I just stick a sign saying QUIET out of the door and use my Pi for work.

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