Management of Family Work/Home Schedules and ToDo’s Research

Introduction

The research conducted was based on how people manage their home and work schedules, for the family, with different types of tools and techniques.

We considered why people, specifically working parents with kids, prefer specific tools among the plethora of available options. And we found that the tools used range from the lowest of tech to the highest.

Objective

Create responsive and/or adaptive versions of sears.com to work with common screen sizes for mobile devices. The main target being products that data suggests attract high-quality users such as Apple products: iPad and iPhone.

Include all useful information and functions for the phone and tablet experiences. Prioritize for those experiences and omit those items that would not be necessary

Problem statement

People have a hard time conducting all the obligations they have in a timely manner. Finding a way to run their schedules in an efficient manner could possibly give them more time to do important things.

Roles and responsibilities

The team I was apart of consisted of 5 members. We all had an equal part in this project. We brainstormed together, agreed on the number of subjects we would each preform the research on. We even collaborated via Google Doc to right our final report.

One task I did perform on my own was making some of the graphics.

Process and What Happened

To better understand this problem, we conducted field observations of working parents with kids, held interviews in the participants homes and conducted a survey via the web.

Methods

Observation

We began by observing 5 working parents with kids as they performed scheduling and demonstrated their current methods of scheduling and keeping track of tasks at home and office. Procedures that were defined for the study included conducting the observation on a weekday, in the evening hours. We observed that people do use different tools to aid them in scheduling.

The main factors we observed impacting people’s choice of tools were

    1. Accessibility
    2. Mobility
    3. Convenience;
    4. Easy-to-use
    5. Ability to share;
    6. Ability to sync
    7. Reliability

Our results suggest that participants preferred traditional tools such as wall calendars, sticky notes and white boards if they want the tasks to be visible and easily editable. Additionally, people seemed to prefer digital tools for tasks that required mobility, shareability, and reliability.

Observation Procedure

Based on the goals of our study. We individually selected our participants. After they accepted participating in the study, we agreed on a time that was most convenient for them. We observed 6 participants within their home environment to view where they naturally manage their schedules.

Three out of six participant’s children were present during the observation. In two of the observations, working husband and wife pairs were both included in the observation. Participants signed consent forms before we began observing. Each observation took approximately 30 minutes.

We decided on using contextual inquiry to frame our observations. We considered this to be the best method to better understand the challenges and thought process of managing work and home schedules in their natural environment.

We briefed the participants on our study objectives and asked them to demonstrate how they manage their home and work schedules. We asked participants to simulate how they manage tasks using the specific tools and technologies they regularly use.

We took detailed notes of all of the participant’s actions and interactions throughout the process. We organized the detailed notes into categories of home scheduling, work scheduling and household responsibilities, detailing the tools they use to achieve these tasks.

We compared these individual notes and looked for trends and similarities.

Analysis

We gathered and shared our observation field notes and reflections. After this, we created different affinity diagrams to analyze the data obtained. Our affinity diagrams led us to identify multiple categories, which we grouped in the following themes:

Types of Task

This theme emerged from categories of data groupings that reflected the type of task that is being planned. The categories are:

    1. School schedule and events
    2. Dinner and meal planning
    3. Child’s chores and child-specific to do’s for parents
    4. Main household schedule
    5. Additional household tasks and projects
    6. Work schedule (calendar)
Affinity Diagram I: Types of Task
Affinity Diagram I: Types of Task
Planning Characteristics

This theme is a grouping of data based on general planning characteristics. The categories are:

    1. Where planning occurs: primary location
    2. Mobility and shareability:
    3. secondary locations
    4. Flexibility of planning
    5. When planning typically occurs
    6. Who plans
Affinity Diagram II: Planning Characteristics
Affinity Diagram II: Planning Characteristics
Technology Considerations

Data affinity reflects categories that speak about technology advantages and technology limitations.

Affinity Diagram III: Technology Considerations
Affinity Diagram III: Technology Considerations
Types of Tools

Lastly, the types of tools theme emerged from categories that correspond to different types of tools utilized for planning by household.

Affinity Diagram IV: Types of Tools
Affinity Diagram IV: Types of Tools

Interviews

After reviewing the results from our field observations, we decided to delve deeper into how working parents with kids manage their schedules in different circumstances.

We conducted 20 to 30 minute interviews with 5 participants who were working and had kids. Our questions primarily focused on the routine methods of keeping track of tasks/reminders.

Our goal was to gain deeper understanding of their preferences of the ensemble of tools they used. We then analyzed our interview through systematic inductive analysis, using predetermined codes from our affinity diagram.

Procedure

The interview consisted of three sections: An initial warmup section, topic questions and some wrap-up questions.

The first set of questions, asked about who contributes to the household’s schedule planning and about technology use. The topic questions delved into specifics about scheduling habits.

With these questions we primarily sought to learn how people manage their work schedule and tasks, how they manage their household schedule and tasks, the tools they have used in the past and currently use, as well as how satisfied they are with they tools they use.

The last set of questions regarded demographics.

Analysis

After conducting the interviews, we proceeded to study and analyze the data via inductive qualitative analysis.

Each researcher transcribed the recordings from the interviews shared the transcription with the entire team and coded another team member’s interview transcription.

We used the Saturate application for coding all the interviews and categorizing the codes. We came up with over 100 codes for all the interviews and categorized them into 11 categories. The image below shows the screenshot from Saturate-app.

Codes and Categories
Codes and Categories

Based on our analysis, we identified the following five themes:

    1. The type of task influences the type of tool preferred
    2. People tend to use multiple tools
    3. People prefer easily accessible tools
    4. People prefer reliable and easy-to-use tools
    5. All family members are affected by scheduling and task coordination

Survey

Following analyzing the results from our interviews, we wanted to gain additional insight into how working parents, whose children live in their household, manage their obligations both at home and at work. We created and distributed a survey consisting of twenty-two Likert scale and multiple choice questions resulting in 39 respondents.

The main goal of this survey was to determine if the difference in reported usage of a singular type of tool over a combination of tools is of significance and to confirm that there is a greater reliance on nondigital tools for managing household schedules and tasks in comparison to the tools used within the work environment.

We enlisted participants via social media, email, instant messaging, and text messaging.

The survey was completed by 39 PX’s. 64% of the PX’s fell in the range of 25-34 years of age, 21% were 35-45 years old, 15% were 46 or more years of age. Overall, 72% of those surveyed were female and 28% were male.

The number of children in the household ranged, with 38% having 1 child, 28% with 2 children, 23% with 3 children, 5% with more than 3, and 5% with none. The ages of the children were 64% at 05 years, 53% at 6-13 years, 14% at 14-18 years and 14% at 18 or more years. (Note: the percentages for the ages of the children totals greater than 100% because some PX’s have children that fall into multiple categories).

When asked how skilled they felt they are with digital interfaces, the responses were as follows: 28% very skilled, 21% somewhat skilled, 15% skilled, 28% neutral, 3% or 1 unskilled, 5% somewhat unskilled.

Procedure

We created and administered the survey using Qualtrics, a web surveying tool ( www.qualtrics.com ). We collaboratively leveraged our individual Facebook accounts, email, instant messaging, and text messaging to reach out to our network of friends, family, and colleagues to participate.We started distributing the survey on the morning of Friday the 29th of May and stopped collecting the date on Sunday the 31st of May at 12:30 CST.

All PX’s were informed of the survey’s purpose, expected length, and their participation rights prior to starting the survey. We made it clear that their participation was voluntary and should not last more than 20 minutes. The survey was made up of up to 22 questions and a final area for additional comments. The question answers varied in format and included Likert scales and multiple-choice options.

The questions were grouped into 3 categories including:

    • General topic questions
    • Specific topic questions
    • Demographics

The first series of questions, were designed to gather information on the who, where, and how of the family schedule and task management. Who contributes to the planning, where this activity is performed, and how many tools are used. Satisfaction, challenges, and feature desires were also gauged in this section.

The second series of questions honed into more specifics of the types of tools people leverage for their family schedule and task management as well as for their work schedule and task management. Overall, PX’s were first asked to choose the type of tools that they use based on if the were digital, nondigital, or both digital and nondigital in nature. According to their response they were prompted with follow up questions that regarded the specific tool for example, if  nondigital tools were selected then the user was prompted to select for a predefined list of nondigital tools or add their own.

Lastly, the demographics section captured age group, gender, number of children in their household, age group of the children that reside in their household, as well as level of skill using digital interfaces.

Analysis

We analyzed part of the survey data in context of the following hypotheses:

Hypothesis I: Parents use digital tools more for managing their work schedules and to do’s than for managing their household’s schedules and to do’s.

Hypothesis II: Parents will rely on a combination of both digital and nondigital tools for managing their household schedules and to do’s more so than a single type of tool.

Findings

The findings are interesting (to me and a researcher) but they are heavy with statistics and thick in research language. If you would like to see the findings, let me know.

Conclusion

As anticipated and based on our observations, interviews, and surveys, people rely on various tools for keeping track of daily schedules and tasks, whether it is for their home or work. And while our observations and interviews reflect that people more often rely on a combination of both digital and nondigital tools to satisfy their needs over only one spectrum of tools, our survey findings suggest that is not the case. However, as previously mentioned this may be a result of a limited or poorly distributed sample.

Overall, our research findings lead us to conclude that people are not necessarily subscribed to anyone’s camp of digital vs. nondigital tools. While individual preferences may influence the choice of tools used, it appears that those preferences are mostly based on whether expectations and needs are met regardless of the physical or digital form factor. Meaning that at its core people may prefer a tool based on specific benefits some of which may or may not be extracted from the form factor.

Given the findings from our observations, interview, and surveys people favor tools that are easily accessible or portable, shareable, reliable, and easy to use. However, the extent of these parameters may vary from user to user. For some, accessibility is sufficient when it comes to being able to quickly see a schedule from a central physical location, for others, it is about accessing their schedule from wherever. Shareability may refer to a dual collaboration between couples but may also refer to making sure that their children can consume the content. Lastly, some participants express that digital platforms are easy to use whereas others express greater difficulty in using these types of tools.

In turn, what this means for a product is that designers need not necessarily focus on only a digital or nondigital component to the product but rather look at the environment as a whole. A good solution may not necessarily be on either end of the spectrum but rather integrate the benefits of traditional tools, such as wall calendars, with the portability benefits of an app calendar, as well as being more context-aware. For example, the end product may address both of our persona spectrums by being more of a packaged solution or an ecosystem that integrates an app with digital calendar displays for the kitchen and smart-boards for the children. Or an app that seeks to easily upload printed schedules into a shared digital calendar and that also easily outputs printed calendars for the children to consume.

Future Work

This report can serve as foundational work, which can be expanded into evaluating tool effectiveness and its potential relationship with user satisfaction. Future work could more methodically hone into the benefits and shortcomings of tools as it regards providing value and perceived satisfaction to the user. 

Additionally, we could capture in more detail the reasoning of why working parents use the tools they use for managing their household schedules and to do’s, and when applicable, the strategies they have adopted or attempted to adopt for streamlining both the number of tools relied upon at home as well as between work and home. In all, it may be beneficial to understand why people choose different tools for specific uses even if a single tool can accommodate for multiple use cases.