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The Home Depot: Cares LOA Portal

Designing a compassionate Leave Of Absence process

3 week sprint 

My Role: UX Design

I worked on surveys, user interviews, affinity mapping, design studios, comparative analysis, topical research, user flows, wireframes, prototyping,  and copywriting. 

Project Summary: 

My team and I were tasked with creating a “North Star” leave of absence process for The Home Depot Enterprise. We were given the broad goal of redesigning their current system with the aim of being industry-leading and guided by a philosophy of compassion.


It was imperative create a system that mitigated the burden of complex laws and paperwork for our users. We set out to create a centralized leave of absence website.


This hub would:


  • guide the associate through the initial stage of filing for a leave of absence

  • provide them with their key point of contact (case specialist)

  • provide access to all pertinent information about their benefits and PTO options

  • introduce them to additional aid for which they may be interested in applying

Problem Statement:

Home Depot needs a centralized process that keeps associates, management, and HR connected and on the same page when it comes to the leave of absence process.


While at the same time, placing additional support in the path of the associate without unnecessary time spent on hunting down solutions.

I needed to start by gathering information to understand the relationships between associates, the company, and state/federal law.

I found that Home Depot associates have many points of contact in the LOA process and there is no clear indication of who is responsible for what.

I created a hierarchy of the LOA process starting from the highest level of government to the associate. 

The key takeaways were: 

  • Much of the paperwork is dictated by the law

  • Company benefits have a large impact on how the associate will need to complete paperwork, especially with insurance

Gathering Information:
Mapping Websites:

While gathering information about Home Depot's benefits and support options I discovered that it is all scattered between several websites that are not connected in any easily comprehensible way. 

Comparative Analysis:

We did not have access to Home Depot's current portals or process. It wasn't possible to find examples of other company's as well. We decided that the best way forward was to use an analogous process such as filing taxes. We compared industry leaders to identify some best practices. 

Key takeaways:

  • Abundance of visual feedback at every step

  • Access to additional information about current step of process on that screen

  • Overview of entire process laid out and easily accessible

  • Documents can be filled out and filed digitally

  • Persistent global navigation


We sent out a survey that helped us to find users for interviews. The most actionable data we received from the survey was about what kind of devices users prefer when viewing, filing out, or uploading documents.

It became apparent that we would be designing a process that would be primarily desktop-based.

User Interviews:

Some patterns in the user interviews:

● Users had difficulty navigating the Leave of Absence Process

● The amount of paperwork is overwhelming especially when you don’t know where to get what paperwork from.

● There is always a missing document which can potentially disconnect you from crucial benefits.

● When asking for help the users were sent in circles to different managers and HR representatives.

● Those that had a close relationship with their HR representative had an easier time navigating the system.

Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

Affinity Mapping:

Key pain points were: 

  • too many steps

  • not knowing who to go to 

  • lack of trust in process 

  • lack of support from those in charge

  • outdate technology 

With all of the above information gathered, I created a persona and a journey map for her with my team. We began iterating solutions based on Sarah and her journey.


The pain points stayed quite consistent though. As we gathered more data we were able to decide which ones to prioritize. 

The affinity map was a living and changing entity throughout the sprint. We were constantly updating it as we were able to interview more users.

User Flows:

I created several user flows based around key actions an associate would need to take to initiate a leave of absence. I decided to focus on a medical leave. I did this because it was important to make the process accessible and easy for those with the least amount of time. We felt that solving for medical leave would trouble shoot for the largest amount of possible problems that could crop up.

Low Fidelity Wireframes: 

After drafting sketched wireframes of potential layouts. I began putting together a low-fidelity prototype. 

Some solutions we included in this prototype were: 

  • A central hub

  • A family portal for filing on behalf of an incapacitated associate

  • access to support via other Home Depot websites

  • global navigation that included access to information on benefits, time off, a LOA checklist, and a "My info" page that provides the associate with contact info for a case specialist

The main flow for initiating medical leave includes: 

  • a progress bar

  • a calendar for scheduling time off

  • visual reminder of the amount of paid time off currently available 

The Certification of Health Care Provider Form was the most important piece of paperwork that needed to be completed in order to initiate leave. We included an option for the user to fill it out digitally and then fax it to their health care provider with instructions on how to complete it and file it on behalf of the associate.  

At the end of the initiating process, the user is shown a checklist of what they've completed and are then taken back to the home screen.

Some adjustments included:


  • making the short-term disability notification more prominent 

  • cutting out a flow that would take the user through The Homer Fund application process


  • editing out the links to other websites in order to keep the focus on the leave of absence process

  • The external links were replaced with a document checklist and management portal 

Usability Tests: 

We began testing with the prototype immediately and made adjustments. 

The main flow for initiating medical leave of absence

Flow for associate to contact their case specialist. Includes the ability to have the case specialist's contact information sent to the user's phone as a V-card 

Documents and checklist flow. Shows how users can manage, upload, edit, and keep track of due dates for important documents

click here to view full prototype in figma

Current Iteration Prototype: 

We performed usability testing with five participants using the System Usability Scale. 

The average score worked out to 62.5, however the majority of the users tested gave the prototype a failing score. 

I feel strongly that we identified the proper pain points with our research and that we implemented solutions that make sense given what we know about the LOA process. I think that additional SUS testing is called for and I would be very interested to receive feedback on the prototype from Home Depot associates who have taken a leave of absence to see what their thoughts are. 


●Additional usability testing

●Add flows for management, HR, and Case Specialists based on additional research

●Add documents that are part of other leave processes

●Investigate mobile integration for application tracking and uploading documents via phone camera

Next Steps: 


●Targeted interviews with Home depot associates from every level of the pyramid. This would include HR and Case Specialists for added perspective on process and to discover blind spots in current design

●Expand scope to address additional types of leave

●Research best methods for digital document processing

●Integrate Business Systems into Home Depot Cares

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