Assisting remote working parents with a smart scheduler in Google Calendar
ProblemHighlightsResearchDesign GoalIdeationSolutionImpactLearnings
About the project

Background: This project was a part of Interaction Design Association (IxDA)’21 Student Design Charette. As a finalist, I collaborated with some of the most talented designers and mentors from all around the world. This project addresses the tension between individual data and global well-being as a part of the overall theme “Design in Perilous Times”. Though we did not win the competition, it was a great learning experience and our project was appreciated for its novelty and impact.

Sponsor: TTC Labs @ Facebook

Duration: 8 weeks (Dec 2020 - Feb 2021)

Team: Anna Schreit (Hungary), Jack Flynn (Ireland), Shriyash Shete (USA)

My Role: User Research, Interaction Design, Visual Design, Prototyping & Testing

Mentors: Siddharth Muthyala (Lego Ventures), Francesca Desmarais (independent)


How might we achieve greater collective well-being through the power of our individual data?

How might we empower individuals to contribute their data safely and enable them to control its use, and what kinds of health and well-being impacts might these contributions have? Explore issues of global health and well-being, identify interesting or provocative use cases, and design for the outcomes our 21st century world demands, through transparent, empowered, participation with data.

ReMotive, AI-powered scheduling in Google Calendar
1. Create personalized schedule with data

Remote working parents can contribute contextual data regarding their work location, companions around them, break preferences and well-being reminders. They can also share the schedule with their family members.

2. Control and collaborate

Parents can modify the AI-generated recommended schedule and choose to keep it separate or integrated with their work calendar. They can view collaborators' schedules and partner with them to manage their shared tasks more effectively.

3. Engaging well-being notifications

Based on the preferences, the calendar recommends breaks with refreshing activities to motivate remote working parents. Besides the usual meeting reminders, well-being notifications engage parents by providing interesting prompts and fun facts.

4. End of day summary

At the end of the last event on the schedule, users are rewarded with a summary of their day. They can review their accomplishments, feel content and switch off from work.

Who are the users?
We started exploring the broad space of remote work by considering five potential user groups: parents/caregivers, students, employers/employees, teachers and new graduates. We decided to focus on parents/caregivers because we found that their situation with remote work is more challenging compared to the other groups, especially remote working young parents with 1 to 5 year old children, who struggle to strike a balance between work, childcare and self-care.
Secondary research, survey & interviews
We created a survey to obtain contextual details about respondents' remote work situations. Also, we interviewed several participants to understand their experience with remote work. Using these research methods, we gathered data about their day-to-day activities, major challenges pertaining to their work-life balance and mental health.


We received 60 responses to our survey from all over the world. We learned how people are dealing with the new normal of remote work. We included WHO-5 questionnaire to calculate the well-being index.

Interview participants

From our survey respondents, we chose seven remote working professionals from different countries such as US, India, Hungary and Ireland to understand their approach to remote work.

Interview script

1. Remote work experience and challenges?
2. How does it affect your mental health?
3. How do you plan, organize, prioritize work?
4. How do you maintain work-life balance?
5. How do you switch off from work?
6. Thoughts on data contribution and privacy?

Understanding the user
Though people enjoy the benefits of remote work such as lack of commute, comfort of home, more flexibility, more family time, etc., we found some hidden drawbacks. The project took place nine months after the first lockdown, yet our insights were surprising:

of the people said their work time and personal time are not separate


have poor well-being index according the WHO-5 questionnaire (meaning that they need to test for depression)


prefer working remotely in some capacity post-pandemic

"Unlike many of you, I only work for 4 hours. That's not a choice, that's the only option. Being a mother of a small baby, I can't be in one room working all day or anytime while the baby is crying outside longing for her mother. With the help of my family, I manage to take out some time. But in that 4 hours, I make sure I am most focused and most productive because my baby is letting me work so that his mother can follow her dreams and doesn't give up on the dreams his mother's mother had for her."
- Participant 1
"I just have a lot of notebooks...Work, Life notebooks...for dad’s care as well. Chicken scratch notebooks. Nice to have a whiteboard. But you cannot carry it. I have developed some mental model to manage notebooks. The calendar helps a lot...I use Google calendar. I share it with my family. It’s better to share because it is digital."
- Participant 2
"My personal time and work time are not separated. The [work] journey begins when you set out of your house. There are no defined lines now. I prefer a separate physical location other than my house. At home, I find myself doing a lot of spontaneous work. People used to say, I will not bring work at home. But now you are working from home!
- Participant 3
After reviewing countless online resources, conducting a survey and user interviews, and analyzing the gathered data, we were able to categorize insights into these 3 categories.
• Parents do not feel in control of their day

• They expressed the need for an enforced schedule and routines to ensure they get all tasks done efficiently

• Parents struggle with taking breaks with remote work. They feel like they are always "ON"

• They experience longer workdays and struggle to switch off from work

• Increased stress, anxiety, burnout if they fail to manage work-life balance

• Employers are also trying to improve their employees' job satisfaction with the new normal
Individual data
• There's a significant increase in online activities and screen time in a remote work environment

• Employees are familiar with project management tools and extensively use calendars and note-taking apps to create lists manually

• Parents are willing to contribute individual data if they know the purpose and data tracking process clearly

• Parents expect a tangible outcome for the data contributed
• Parents find patterns in their kids' behavior and routine and have to adjust their work times accordingly

• They share childcare and household responsibilities with their partners, daycare workers and nannies
Reframing the problem
How might we use data to assist remote working parents in maintaining their personal well-being while they balance work and childcare?
What's already out there?
I analyzed and took inspiration from Grammarly, Momentum plugin, Slack Donut, Calendly, and Microsoft outlook analysis.
Initial ideas
With the above insights in mind, I came up with three directions that I thought our solution could take. Since working parents spend most of the time on laptops and desktops, I focused on web apps/plug-ins.

Concept 1
Well-being plug-in

• No clear purpose for data collection
• Needs more thought, functionality

Concept 2
Dedicated workspace on web

• Works like a remote desktop on VPN
• Does not add much value

Concept 3
Personified assistance (quantified self)

• Needs to be integrated with some app
• Can't be too pushy with notifications

Taking a step back
Because parents were struggling to set aside personal time around their work, we found that the root of the problem lies in scheduling. Planning the day well in advance and prioritizing tasks can mitigate most of the productivity problems for parents. We revisited our insights and realized that the closest digital touchpoint for them is Google Calendar.
What if...
We could provide parents with a smart calendar that is aware of the remote work situation they are in?
What if...
We could add a feature in the product users are familiar with instead of re-inventing the wheel and bombarding them with another tool?
70% of adults rely on digital calendar. The most popular desktop calendar programs in use are Google (15.44% of all users), Apple (7.77%), Outlook (5.15%) and Windows Live (4.76%).

- ECAL 2018 statistics
Tying it all together with Google Calendar
We combined concept 1 (well-being plug-in) and concept 3 (personified assistance) with Google Calendar to make it a cohesive experience and began developing wireframes. Concept 2 was in the direction of a new product and did not add much value to users, hence we eliminated it after taking feedback and discussing the pros and cons.
Leveraging the power of AI/ML
We brainstormed some of the data opportunities associated with work conditions and mapped out the data flow for the system. We realized that making the calendar smarter and automated, and creating a seamless scheduling experience requires the fuel of data. Also, by using AI/ML, the calendar is more adaptive to the user behavior in the long run.
Aligning it with the Google brand
High-fidelity designs
Using their existing work schedule and one time input, ReMotive assists parents with finding time throughout the day for their personal tasks.
Web tool for employers
Calendar Insights enterprise dashboard provides employers with an anonymized view of engagement and well-being of employees across all business units. It enables employers to get qualitative insights and make well-informed decisions about the future of work and employee retention.
Usability testing
We tested the solution at various stages of the project.

Low-fi prototypes - We presented and tested our initial sketches with the stakeholders to get feedback on the functionality, content and interactivity of the feature.

Remote user testing - We shared the high-fidelity prototypes and conducted moderated as well as unmoderated tests with five remote working parents.

Final presentation - We received feedback on our final solution and the overall design process from SDC judges, mentors and organizers.
From personal to global well-being
Based on our usability findings, I envisioned the long-term effect of this feature at different scales. For each level, I defined what success would look like.
Project learnings
1. Big picture thinking, not just attention to details
People appreciated the novelty of our solution, especially for the innovative interactions like the cube effect and polished visuals with Google branding. However, I fell short in capturing the complexities and tensions between remote work and parenting through our narrative. Thinking critically about ever-changing and unpredictable user journeys of parents and measuring the change in behavior is challenging.

2. Easier said than done with AI/ML
It's easy to pin problem-solving on the black box of AI/ML, but at the end of the day, we as designers have to understand how the data collection process and end solutions work. Designers often are lured by trendy design concepts, but we must always remember the ‘why’. The primary goal is to understand the user, their problems and then come up with a solution.

3. Global team and remote collaboration
Collaborating remotely with people from different timezones, cultures, languages, skills, perspectives and backgrounds is always very exciting, but careful task delegation and clear communication is needed throughout the project, especially with tight timelines. Keeping these additional factors into account at the early strategizing stage can help push the project forward easily and save time and efforts.

Thank you for reading!

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