A user-centered platform created especially for the WFH community which reduces work distractions and facilitates social interaction 
the Remote working pattern
brings mutual disturbance and alienation
With the COVID-19 pandemic, working remotely has become a new trend in the workplace. However, employees are unable to keep abreast of each other's status in a timely manner, and the constant news brings unintended interruptions to work and life. In addition, working remotely deprives employees of opportunities to communicate with each other, making it difficult to have conversations with each other and leading to social alienation.

What if I could let my employees know each other's work status?
I create a work platform based on the shared calendar among employees, through which employees can know each other's status, avoid interrupting each other at work, and encourage employees to communicate with each other during breaks.
How can I get remote workers to know each other better to reduce friction and increase contact?
TeamLink is a shared schedule-based office app that allows employees to choose to connect and invite events synchronously or asynchronously based on each other's status.
Main product features
Shared calendar
Share calendars, be transparent about work status, work hours, and work content.
Asynchronous communication
Asynchronous communication, users can disconnect to work efficiently and rest.
Collaborative teamBoard
Synchronous tool to help users collaborate efficiently.
Off-duty events and forums
Organize online activities when the work is done
Design Process
Starting from my research
01 Investigating problems —
Collaboration, loneliness, and difficulty being offline are the biggest problems
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced thousands of people around the world to work remotely. Through the research paper, I find that: 62% of employed Americans currently say they are working from home during the crisis and 74% of companies they surveyed expect some of their employees to continue working remotely after the pandemic ends. Working remotely has become the norm, so I chose to improve the working experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to understand the pain points of users in working remotely, I set a questionnaire from a wide range of perspectives, including problems of existing work applications, experience of working from home, etc. I finally received 82 effective responses, I found that:

#1. 22% of respondents (18) reported problems with collaboration or communication when working from home.

#2. 20% of the respondents (16) often felt lonely due to a lack of interaction with their colleagues.

#3. 18% of the respondents  (15) said they found it difficult to get out of the work.

#4. 58% of respondents (47) said the flexibility of when and where they work is the biggest benefit of working remotely.

01 Investigating problems —
What makes users find it difficult to collaborate, lonely, and difficult to get out of work?
In order to better understand the causes of pain points of remote working users, I interviewed 6 target users, trying to find the relationship between pain points and looking for design opportunities.

Then I held an interpretation session and created an affinity diagram to learn about the interview. Through my affinity diagram, I was able to get a range of meaningful insights. Some insights break my previous assumptions, others affirm the assumptions I have developed, and many more offer ideas I have not considered.
01 Investigating problems —
The frequent messages interrupt the continuous working hours
Interviewees use messaging software such as WeChat or DingTalk to work, and they face the pressure of needing to reply to messages at any time.

“The leader would ask me to schedule a meeting suddenly.”

“Messages sent by the leader in the group need to be replied promptly.”

The ubiquitous messages interrupts life
Because respondents use social software to work at home, they are disturbed by work during breaks.

“The colleague who called me didn't know I was on break.”

“Sometimes, I'm suddenly required to sent a file to a leader.”

Less interaction with colleagues leads to feelings of loneliness
Informal office conversations turn into scheduled online meetings, reducing social interactions among colleagues.

“I don't have many opportunities to chat with colleagues.”

“My daily conversations with my colleagues are mostly work-related.”

02 Identifying reasons —
Different types of work patterns and schedules lead to interruptions
Managers and makers have different working patterns, and mismatched working patterns may cause managers to interfere with makers' work and rest:

#1. For the managers, the frequent processing of messages and meetings is the main content of their job, and indeed the managers’ working hours are fragmented. However, for makers, frequent reply messages and sudden meeting arrangements will interrupt their continuous working time, which is not conducive to in-depth work.
When working in office, makers can know each other's work status. However, when working remotely:

#1. Each maker's work place, time and content arrangement are different, so it is difficult for makers to know each other's work status, which could lead to the interruption of each other's work time.

#2. The overly flexible hours of working remotely can also make it difficult for makers to know if each other is still working, which may cause disruption to their lives.

#3. In addition, informal conversations that took place in the office have disappeared because of a lack of the chance of communication.
02 Identifying reasons —
The time after deep work can be used to encourage interaction between users
Considering that users feel lonely due to the lack of mutual communication, I conducted the next round of research and analyzed users' workflow through the user journey. I found that:

Workers often don't go offline immediately after work, choosing to do simple work related to work instead. This time allowed me to use it to build interactions with colleagues.

02 Identifying reasons —
Most of the remote work applications are synchronous
After understanding the mutual disturbance caused by users' working time mismatch, I studied the collaborative office software on the market, made a competitive analysis, and looked for our design's current design problems and opportunities. I found that:#1. Most of the collaboration tools are based on timely synchronization.

#2. A small number of asynchronous communication-based collaboration tools exist. Still, the compatibility between synchronous and asynchronous communication is not good, and the interference problem caused by synchronous communication is still not solved.

02 Identifying reasons —
Identify Painpoints and Opportunities
After my main insights were gained, I developed a user journey map to articulate our findings. It helped me identify the pain points of my target users and the opportunities I could target as intervention points to design a better product for workers.

The key takeaways of creating this map are the identified opportunities as follows:

Reduce the number of apps users use while working.
Provide the user with the working status of all employees.
Encourage users to edit complete information.
Avoid instant messaging to disturb employees.
Encourage communication with users after they finish their work.
Clearly show the user's off-duty status.

03 Ideation —
Concept Ideation
According to the insights found in the research, I conducted brainstorming and formed 30 ideas after voting for the ideas with my classmates. I translated these ideas into 10 storyboards to better explain my concept and help us better verify users’ needs.

03 Ideation —
Speed-dating with target users for desirability evaluation
After generating 10 storyboards, I conducted six speed-dating sessions with potential users to verify their needs and find out which concepts had higher expectations and novelty. I asked participants to rate the desirability and novelty of 10 storyboards in a speed-dating session, with a brief explanation of why.

From speed dating, I can clearly determine which ideas are most needed. At last, the user expressed no demand for the four ideas. I classified the remaining six ideas and produced the three most important concepts: Schedule, Conversation, and Activity.

three concepts
The calendar shows the tasks and status of all employees. Each user can arrange their schedule according to the team tasks and choose the appropriate time to communicate with colleagues.
It combines asynchronous communication and synchronous communication to reduce the pressure on employees to reply to messages and avoid the interruption of users' work and life.
According to the user's schedule, invite employees to participate in activities after the user's work to promote daily communication between employees.
04 Prototying and testing —
Low Fidelity Prototyping and Iteration 1
My prototype aims to reduce the impact of trivial news on users' work and life and provide opportunities for employees to interact with each other when appropriate. The first iteration is a paper prototype. I divided the application into three user flows:Set up personal schedules, conversations, and invite employees to participate in activities.

After completing the first round of prototypes, I invited seven users to help me with the testing to get feedback about the interface and design flow. The major insights and improvements fell into three categories:Design flow, information redundancy, and interface details.
Design Flow: The user mentioned that it took a long time to reach the Schedule page in #1 Set a Schedule. In addition, users mentioned that when they received the task of sending a message to the team while on the #1 Schedule page, they needed to fall back to #2 Tamil page, which was inconvenient even though there was only one extra step. Improvement: I added a button directly into Today's Schedule in the Welcome Page of #1 to help employees enter the Schedule as soon as possible. In addition, I added a shortcut entry to the Tamil Message in the Schedule in #1 to simplify communication between users.

Information Redundancy: The user mentioned that a chat page on planet Page in Flow #3 Activity seems to have no connection to our page content. Improvement: I deleted message board information from Planet Page.

Interface details: The user mentioned it was difficult to find their place in the list when setting up personal tasks in #1. Improvement: I distinguished the user's task setting area from other areas on the page and added "Drag to add your Tasks here." as a hint.
04 Prototying and testing —
Mid Fidelity Prototyping
I came up with another version of Mid-fidelity mockups after user tests. Here are a few interfaces that I made by Figma. I  designed all illustrations of the workflow based on the data I had.

User flow #01Schedule:


Provide an overview of user tasks
Coordinate work arrangements according to team members' work content
Set the focus, time, and state of the task
Understand the working schedule and working status of everyone in the group
Set the rest state and disconnect from work

User flow #02 Conversation:


Mainly to asynchronous communication, reduce the interruption of messages
Set up status alerts to receive notifications and communicate when colleagues are free
Set up a synchronous form of whiteboard and video communication
Break the workgroup down to reduce irrelevant messages in the group
Quickly set the message information to a task

User flow #03 Activity:


After completing the task, users receive push messages and activities with colleagues
Set daily topics, review works and create common topics

04 Prototying and testing —
Users Assessment and Iteration 2
After the first round iteration, I did second round user tests based on the Mid-Fidelity prototype, and I tested the user’s intuitive ability to: 

#1. Users enter the Schedule Page to set the tasks and task status they plan to do that day. (Task1,3,7)

#2. Users choose the appropriate time and different tools to communicate according to the status of their colleagues. (Task2,4)

#3. Users follow the push into the Activity Planet page to conduct activities after their work is completed and then exit the activity to write their own thought about the daily topic. (TasK5,6)

In general, users have almost no difficulty in completing #2 and #3 tasks. For #1 Setting Tasks, some users are doing things differently than I expected when setting up tasks or finding the right colleague to contact, so I mainly made changes for this flow.

04 Prototying and testing —
Users Assessment and Iteration 2
Which task should I start with?
Insight: During the test, participants said that it was difficult to find their tasks to be completed, and meanwhile, the process at the bottom of the page would bring interference to users. In addition, when users set their tasks, they do not refer enough to the task arrangement of their colleagues, which is inconsistent with the idea that we expect users to choose the work to be carried out according to the degree of task coordination.

Refinement :#1. I removed the folded form of the user task list to select tasks directly on the current page without unfolding the list. #2. I  removed the redundant process section to simplify the display content of the page. #3. When the user hovers over a task, the same tasks of his colleagues are highlighted to help the user collaborate better.
Is this my colleague's private time?
Insight: During the test, users will assume that colleagues will be free after they finish their tasks. Users will choose this personal time to ask about work matters, disturbing the colleagues' personal lives.

Refinement :#1. I identify the display outside of the user's work on the schedule page so that the user can know everyone's status at any time #2. I prioritized the more important focus mode at the top, encouraging users to set their focus task #3.Add a personal status display on the personal page, so users can easily know each person's status without clicking on each person's avatar.
How do I adjust my task status?
Insight: In the test, the user mentioned that they would adjust the status in the process of work. The entrance of the status setting page in the navigation bar did not conform to the user's operating habits, so it was not convenient for the user to switch the working status.

Refinement :#1. Users can click their avatar to adjust their task status quickly.
05 Design system—
Visual System Design
I created a set of photo storyboards to help us plan out my video. This process helped me select shooting locations, prepare props, set up shots, and think about how I would transition from one scene to another.

06 Reflection —
Project Takeaways
The lack of understanding brought about by telecommuting is the root cause of the mutual disturbance.

Simply setting different communication patterns for two parties with different work patterns will exacerbate the lack of understanding, and promoting employees to understand each other's status is the right way to solve the problem
A physical device can be another option.

By reflecting on the overall design, I realized that I could consider more about the physical device than an App because the most crucial point in the design is promoting employees' understanding of each other.
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Last Updated - November2021
Copyright © Zhiyong Kong 2021