Skip to main content

Developing Workforce Safety: A Rapid Response to Covid-19

JC Chakravarty, Manager, User Experience
April 12, 2021

This is the story of how Appian helped organizations worldwide get thousands of people back to work during the worst global pandemic in over a century, safely and legally. 


The Appian Workforce Safety Solution

COVID-19 threw people worldwide into what seemed like a black hole of chaos.  As infection rates rapidly grew, and related concerns grew even faster, communities struggled to respond.  

Many people told to stay home felt fearful and uncertain about their ability to work and their health and wellbeing, should they return to work. Organizations faced the painful dilemma of how to maintain operations while ensuring the safety of their workforce. 

At Appian, we felt compelled to do what we could to help the communities where we live and work address the human and economic risks of the pandemic and to do so as fast as possible. Using our expertise in building powerful enterprise-grade apps, we built a solution to help workers worldwide return safely to work and to be as productive as they were before the pandemic.  We created the app with two goals in mind: 

  • Give organizations the tools they needed to thoughtfully bring workers back on site, in a manner that demonstrated a commitment to their well-being.  
  • Give workers the peace of mind that their organizations were watching out for their well-being.

This led to the development of the Workforce Safety Solution, designed to accommodate a diverse range of workforce types, habits, and routines, on-site or remote, and bring them back on site safely and with minimal disruption.  


How We Created the Workforce Safety Solution

Speedy development was critical, as was helping organizations maximize their productivity with the best possible user experience (UX).  

Step 1: Research and First Build

We took the time up front to understand users’ needs, typical workforce patterns, and typical constraints. Over the next seven days, we used Appian’s low-code platform to build a minimum viable product (MVP). 

Next, we gathered feedback on the overall app experience and consulted with our own workforce subject matter experts and our HR team on what the app needed.

Once we had sufficiently analyzed this initial data, we started to build an enterprise-grade application to take to market. Use of low-code development allowed us to develop the app much faster than what was previously possible.  Given the app’s  global reach, we consulted industry experts across different regions to help us understand local regulations in areas such as online privacy and hosting. 

Step 2: User Centered Design Practice

At Appian, we believe in both quality and speedy delivery. The sooner our solutions go to market, the sooner they can deliver impact.

With the capabilities of our low-code development platform, we moved to a monthly release cadence to keep up with user requirements.  Our discovery team of  product managers (PMs) and UX designers (UXDs)  collected feedback on each release, and incorporated requested features and feedback on existing features into upcoming releases.

Given the pace at which we were creating the Workforce Safety Solution, we had to first ensure we were building the right things, then build them right. Our PMs and UXDs maintained a rigorous schedule for research, design, and usability testing, which gave us the leeway to ensure that we were delivering valuable, usable features.

The UX Development Process

Our UX process for each feature included 4 steps: 

1. Initiation:

  • PMs and UXDs collaborated on initial feature assumptions and hypotheses.
  • We used several user research techniques to understand customer requirements.

2. Brainstorming: 

  • PMs and UXDs drew from user research to develop possible solutions.

3. Designing:

  • Using best practices in user interface (UI) design, we created design mockups and highlights of key interaction. 

4. Testing:

  • We gathered user feedback and adjusted our solutions as needed before handing them off to developers.

Step 3: Applying UI best practice

We used a mobile-first app design approach, with three design principles: 

  1. Use easy, intuitive navigation to make the app accessible to people of diverse backgrounds  .
  2. Use minimalistic design patterns first to show critical items and calls to action--for example, showcase the primary action of requesting a pass, followed by other actions.
  3. Use clear labeling and instruction text to help the user and minimize necessary data input--for example, one question per page allowed the user to follow along without feeling overwhelmed.


Image 1: Appian Workplace Safety App



The Workplace Safety App uses enhanced Appian reporting and design capabilities to improve organization decision-making

Charts using real-time data collection and reporting help companies assess their readiness to return to work. The app includes charts for:

  • How many employees are currently vaccinated.
  • Pass requests, which provides a real-time view of the number of employees coming into the workplace and allow company to implement capacity restrictions as necessary.
  • Employee status, giving a historical analysis of employees cleared to return to work vs. those who are working from home.

Image 2: Workforce Safety Incident Dashboard


Image 3: Workforce Safety Vaccination History report


The app supports contact tracing with visualizations and reports of data showing employee exposure, to help management take actions to prevent further exposure. The app also supports case management activities, such as recording stakeholder actions to prevent further exposure.


Image 4: Workforce Safety Employee Status Report



The COVID pandemic reminded us that the unimaginable can happen and reinforced the importance of being prepared for any scenario.  Technology such as the Appian Low-Code Automation Platform helps organizations develop the tools to adapt to change and disruption with agility and speed.  Appian low-code development is 10x faster than with traditional, high-code methods.  

While building an app to help businesses safely get employees back to work, we learned two things:

  1. Don’t hesitate to use quick and  inexpensive means, like Appian’s drag and drop UI design capabilities, to develop a  design up front and gauge feedback from users. Doing so insured we were  building something users embraced.
  2. Start small through a series of evolving MVPs instead of trying to build a monolith application up front. Small, frequent small releases let us gather feedback along the way and make sure we were providing users value.