Team & my role: Product designer (and so much more)
8 teammates, including a CEO, a fellow designer, 4-5 engineers and a market researcher in a remote first format. We were later joined by a seasoned writer and two design interns. Pause went from start to launch in 10 months.
As a founding member, I wore several hats through an agile product development process:
Modern workplace tools need to evolve with the times– remote world, distributed teams and focus on employee well-being. Time-off tracking tools are wanting of disruption wherein they prioritise employees and are uncharacteristically simple and transparent.
Small enterprises (eg: agencies and startups) with upto 100 members.
Two core user segments
Focus: Admin workflow for 'time-off policy creation'
We will focus on the Admin workflow, specifically 'time-off policy creation' because all employee experience stems from simplifying this back-end system of policy creation and communication. HR fatigue is also a rising problem where company policies are complex and opaque.
Admin (user) goals
Time-off policies are derived from national laws and/or industry best practices. Consequently, their articulation in time-off tracking tools de-emphasises the employee.
Research: user interviews and competitor analysis
To understand how time-off policies are designed and built, we conducted 8 user interviews with admins and HR representatives of agencies and startups. We created an interview guide, conducted interviews remotely and then synthesised that data to arrive at key observations, data points and insights.
In addition, we also deep dived into time-off policy creation across competitor products to explore existing interaction patterns and user flows.
Types of leaves
Product strategy: A new way to look at time-off policies
We took a radical approach of removing the numeric cap on people-centric leaves like Maternity and Bereavement, calling them 'non-deductible' or 'unlimited' leaves. We later added a soft upper limit to the table upon customer request. But this does not feature in allowance calculations.
We decided to solve this issue by first defining the values that would guide our decision making through the process.
Past explorations & design process
We started designing this feature the traditional way. This approach retained attributes like adding numeric limits to all leave types. Deep discussions with engineers resulted in debates about leave allocation calculations its impact on the backend system. There were a few problems:
Policies could technically change at any time. This was especially turning out to be true soon after onboarding, when admins realised they had changes to make. A close collaboration with engineers led to a deep session to handle edge cases of changing policies mid-cycle.
I. Leave application flow
When applying for leave, employees generally choose the reason for taking their leave from the various kinds offered by their organisation. There were two key problems here:
We opened communication at every step of this process, for which the leave calculations from the policy was imperative to keep accurate and clear.
We designed this for desktop as well as mobile and Slack to work with brevity and build a differentiator.
Onboarding organisations onto Pause was imperative; we had to enable admins to bring their current systems, policies and people onto Pause or even create a new policy from scratch. We invested disproportionately in this feature, shrinking the onboarding experience from 21 steps down to 3, which then only took less than a minute. Our assumption was that a quick onboarding was rare for SaaS products and would give us a competitive advantage and reduce drop-offs tremendously.
Profile is a user's go-to place to stay updated on their leave balances and time-off records. The data is directly calculated based on the leave policy structure and the start date of the leave cycle/employee. Keeping this numerically accurate, yet profoundly clear was imperative.
We designed the components, interactions and flows across both platforms to remain the same to reduce engineering effort and maintain consistency. Designed for Desktop and Mobile.
IV. Inviting new members
Inviting members of the organisation onto Pause was the backbone of our product– the product was of value only when all members of a team are updating their time-off data accurately. Allocating leave allowances when inviting (and also bringing older ones in during onboarding) was the most challenging part to design, given its inherent complexity and the consequent
Feedback from users
As a young team, our eyes were consistently peeled for feedback. We were available across many channels– Intercom (chat app), review sites, twitter and email. While we kept an exhaustive record of suggestions, here are some of the nicest things we heard.