COVID-19 has caused a shift in the workforce from a model of work-life balance to work-life integration. In order to protect employees from the pandemic, many companies have quickly transitioned to remote work.
While the push for remote work may be temporary, 85% of companies saw increases in productivity due to greater flexibility[^1], and 80% of employees elicited a positive response to remote work. Given these statistics, we believe that during the recovery of the pandemic, companies could continue remote work.
As a result of this transition, many college students’ summer internships were canceled or switched to a remote format. Due to the lower cost and lower risk associated with remote internships, this is a trend we foresee continuing post-COVID. However, according to a survey conducted of 900 remote interns[^2], 67% of remote interns desire daily check-ins from their managers.
This prompted us to create a web application with the remote intern in mind. Through our app, managers are able to assign and delegate tasks to ensure productivity while gaining valuable feedback from those they supervise. These assignments and events appear in a user-friendly dashboard that the intern is able to view as a daily checklist specifically tailored to them.
We created a go-to-market strategy that allows employers to purchase and download our web application online, receive free tutorials to train employees, and access one-on-one customer support from any location. To discover more about how we created our product and strategy, our outline is detailed below.
Ashley Dawson (Project Manager, Senior HR & Marketing Analytics @ Liberty University)
Ashley was responsible for scheduling meetings and maintaining weekly communication between pro and go teams. Alongside Jasmeet and with input and review from Go-Squad coaches, she created and refined the go-to-market strategy.
Jasmeet Kaur (Business Development, Senior Business @ Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis)
Jasmeet put together our online go-to-market strategy with some help from our GoSquad coach. She also helped to iterate upon our business model canvas, customer personas, value proposition design, and environmental analysis
Chien-Chun Wu (UX Designer, Masters of HCI Design @ Indiana University Bloomington)
Chien worked to produce the structure and visual element of the application. With teammates’ input from both Go and Pro squads, he iterated the designs in Figma and delivered the outcome to Zach for final implementation.
Zach Skiles (Software Engineer, Junior Computer Science @ Purdue University)
Zach worked to develop a functioning prototype of the application that was designed by both the pro and go squads. Working with Chien and Elizah, he took prototype designs created in Figma by Chien and used React to bring them to life.
Elizah Weating (Software Engineer, Senior Computer Science @ Indiana University Bloomington)
Elizah worked on the backend of the application that would allow the application to function. Working with Zach and Chien, he took the frontend of the application and used Node.js and MongoDB for some of the functionalities for the application to work.
How did we decide on this customer segment, problem, and solution?
We worked with our coaches to identify the challenges and hurdles related to working from home based upon their personal experience. Because a large segment of the population is working from home, we chose to narrow down our customer base to companies switching to remote internships in order to create a customer-specific solution. We received information from a Google Forms survey that we created and shared with our network. A few key features we wanted to focus on in developing a solution are listed below.
- Due to the integration of work life and home life, time management is key to maintaining productivity and accountability.
- Stakeholder interaction and team collaboration have changed drastically due to remote work and were noted as challenges.
- Of our survey responses, only 1 out of 5 participants had a negative attitude towards working from home. Employees seemed to like the idea of a combination of remote and in-office work.
Based upon this, we wanted scheduling to be a key feature of the app, allowing managers and teammates to view their team’s availability while also being used as a personal tool that breaks down a large to-do list into a manageable daily schedule. This is intended to facilitate collaboration as well as helping employees manage work-life balance. We also believe that this model would be effective for offices implementing a mixed remote schedule because it allows the team to collaborate even if only a portion of them are in the office.
While we chose the intern/supervisor relationship to focus on in designing product features, we believe this tool could be effective for remote workers facing a geographical distance from their employers as well as creating modules for employee on-boarding and telelearning.
How did we build and iterate on the solution?
Taking input from both the pro and go squads, we first decided what features we wanted our application to have. We also decided that the best way to deploy these features would be through a web application that was built mobile-first, with the idea that the users would mostly be interacting with it on their phones as they worked from home.
We then organized the features we wanted into three groups, with the first being essential features, the second being desirable but not necessary features, and the third being non-important features that we would implement if we had time. The idea was that we would implement the features group by group, starting with the essentials. Some of these essentials included having a task list with items that you could react to after marking them off, or a dashboard that shows you the responses to your daily tasks. Our main goal was to allow the employee to record their mental health and productivity for later review by the employer, who would determine if said employee was doing better working from home or in office.
From there, we came up with a simple workflow that we used to develop the rest of the product idea. One of our pro squad members was a UX designer who would create a prototype of the feature in Figma. After it was created, the other members would take the design and first code a visual template. Later, they would go back and add the functionality to the visual template, which was the last step in implementing the feature.
Using that strategy, we were able to code a solid demo of the intern side of the application where the user would be able to view tasks and react to them for the manager to see later on.
How has your role changed, if at all, due to working from home?
- Interactions with stakeholders has become challenging
- Conducting user research is problematic
- In-person collaboration has reduced
From your personal experience, what is the biggest challenge presented by working from home?
- Building relationships with colleagues I don’t work frequently with
- Stuck in the same environment throughout the day
- Communication with team members
- Lack of concentration; monotonous environment; reduced efficiency
- Collaboration with team members
What do you enjoy most about working from home?
- More time due to lack of commute (x2)
- Flexibility (x3)
What tools have you found to be most helpful in navigating working from home?
- Office 365
- Microsoft Teams
What tool do you wish you had in order to navigate the challenges of working from home?
- Big white board
- Standing desk
- Something for self-discipline
Technical Details and Diagrams
Web App Information Architecture
Web App Technical Architecture
Key Tools, Libraries, and Frameworks
- NPM - Package manager that was used to install react and the other node modules used in the application.
- Heroku - Cloud hosting platform that we used to deploy and manage our web app
- GitHub - Version control and repository hosting service, where we stored all of our source code.
- MongoDB - Database that we chose because it is relatively easy to use and connects well with Node.js.
- Figma - We chose Figma because of its features of cloud storage and collaboration, thus we could communicate and share ideas with less friction.
- Check the link for our high-fidelity prototype.
- Check the code in our GitHub repo. Front end. Back end. See the node_modules folder in GitHub for a full list of the npm packages we used.
If given another 5 weeks, we would work on
- We only had 5 participants that completed the survey. Given more time, we would have wanted to hear from at least 20 people specific to our customer segment.
- We did not conduct any marketing campaigns to test or promote the product. With five more weeks, we would run a social media test campaign to promote our product and get feedback from our customer segment.
- The web application that we ended up with only shows the intern functionality of what we had planned, not the manager functionality. In our Figma design document, we had many more features designed and planned, with the only step left being implementation. Some of these features include:
- Manager account that shows an overview of all interns and employees, shows their individual responses (and collective responses) to tasks/events, and allows the manger to assign tasks to specific employees
- Real authentication through the backend, using MongoDB to store users and data
- Ability for manager to update or add articles, and a system that would recommend articles to employees who were feeling less productive
- Instant messaging and/or video chats through the app
- Connection to an email API that would display the user’s events from their personal calendars as tasks that could be completed and reacted to
- A group id that would allow different business/groups to use the app and keep their data separate
- Break notifications that would pop up every once in a while to tell the user that they should take a little time to refresh after working a certain amount of time
- We noticed that there are collaboration tools like Jira, digital calendars existing in their workplace from the employers/employees we reached out. It would be great if we use another 5 weeks to figure out what and how to integrate our application with other tools.
Checklist of Completed Items
- Environmental Analysis ✅
- Business Model Canvas ✅
- Value Proposition Canvas ✅
- Customer Personas ✅
[^1]: Herig, Beth Braccio, “Remote Work Statistics: Shifting Norms and Expectations”Flexjobs.com, accessed July 24, 2020. link
[^2]“Virtual Internship Statistics and Trends: A 2020 COVID-19 Impact Report”Yello.com, accessed July 24, 2020. link