Build your own home office room display system

While COVID19 has forced many organisations and staff to embrace working from home, I’ve been fortunate enough to have spent the past 11 years being able to work from home.

Those who know me or have been following me for a while are familiar with my views on working from home, however if this is your first time reading one of my posts, I’d recommend you pause here and watch this 3 ½ minute video from 2014 to get up to speed.

The problem

For those of us with families, working from home can be both wonderful and frustrating. For the most part it’s fantastic, however those small frustrations come from a variety of domestic happenings. Whether it’s your spouse coming in to tell you something that happened or a random thought that popped in their head, or the kids playing near the home office door. These are relatively innocuous and in reality, these “frustrations” are actually something we should be thankful for, but that doesn’t stop them interfering with the flow of your work.

Solutions to indicate your availability aren’t new, and in fact a couple of years ago I covered the Plenom Kuando Busylight as it was something that had helped me considerably. Generally, solutions like the Busylight look at the status of your communications tool and change their colour based your presence, however you can take these further and have it pull status from your Outlook calendar, other apps and APIs, or even just manually set it.

For these devices to have any chance of success you need to train your family to understand what the different colours mean.

However, the problem with just colours is that it doesn’t explain to your family the importance of respecting the status. If the Busylight is flashing for Do Not Disturb – my family don’t know if that means I’m engrossed in work and have headphones on so don’t care what’s happening outside the house, or if I’m recording some videos and need a few minutes of silence to avoid picking up background sound.

The solution

Well-designed offices will often have room booking panels that show what is booked in now or what is coming up. I’ve been wanting something like this for myself for a while, but they are often costly and designed to work with meeting rooms – not real people’s calendars.

Luckily, I have at home a Samsung Galaxy Tab A that is about four years old and has become so slow it is virtually unusable – which makes it the perfect device to perform a single task!

Using the existing My Day Today app, I stripped out the parts that were unrequired (tasks) and adjusted the layout to differentiate between what’s happening now vs. what is coming up.

Key features

  • Displays current appointment in top half
  • Displays two appointments in bottom half
  • Scrollbar and scroll button appear if there are more than two upcoming events
  • Differentiates between appointment (person icon), meeting (people icon), and Microsoft Teams meeting (people icon with Microsoft Teams logo)
  • Automatically refreshes every 5 minutes, or can be done manually
  • Header and divider colour changes to red if there is a currently active calendar entry

In the image below, you can see the solution with all the features in use: appointment, meeting and Teams meeting, colour change for active appointment, visibility of scroll bar and button for further appointments

In the images below, you can see the difference in colours and display depending on whether there is a currently active calendar entry.

Making it work

As the tablet would automatically go to sleep after 30 minutes, I installed an app called Screen Timeout which allows you to disable the screen turning off.

Using a USB extension cable, cable clips, and double-sided (removeable) tape, I mounted the tablet directly outside my home office door. The cabling is temporary, as I intend to hide the cable in the wall as well as get a right-angled connector so the tablet can be a bit closer to the door frame.

You can download the app from GitHub and use it yourself.

All you need to do is import the canvas app and create the connection to your Office 365 mailbox – and that’s it!


Also published on Medium.

2 comments

  1. Great article, I’ve got my old Samsung setup in the kitchen for Home Automation stuff. And I cant recommend “Fully Kiosk Browser” enough, its best feature is turning the display off automatically when its dark, or after a few minutes or no movement. Automatically turning back on when it detects movement via the camera.

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