3 Essential Power Automate Templates for Remote WorkersCOVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way we think about the workplace. Throughout 2020, businesses all across the globe embraced remote working as a way to remain operational throughout the biggest health and economic crisis in living memory. But has COVID-19 changed the way we work, forever? According to a recent survey,… Read More
3 Essential Power Automate Templates for Remote Workers
COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way we think about the workplace.
Throughout 2020, businesses all across the globe embraced remote working as a way to remain operational throughout the biggest health and economic crisis in living memory.
But has COVID-19 changed the way we work, forever?
According to a recent survey, 92% of employees now want the option to work from home, with data to suggest that the ideal post-pandemic working week would involve at least 3 days of remote working.
At Systems Assurance we’ve always encouraged our clients to embrace the many benefits of remote and flexible working, but despite all the positives there are some challenges associated with remote working.
Are you planning to give your employees the option to work from home, in the post-pandemic economy?
In this tutorial I’ll show you how to automate the time-consuming admin typically associated with supporting a remote workforce. By the end of this tutorial, you’ll have setup three Microsoft Power Automate workflows that take the hassle out of monitoring your employees - regardless of whether they’re working from home, their local cafe, or any other location.
What we’ll be building
By the end of this tutorial, you’ll have created the following workflows in Microsoft’s Power Automate application:
● Report current location and activity. This workflow will allow your employees to tap a button on their smartphone, and upload their current location and activity to a SharePoint list. By implementing this workflow across your organization, you’ll have a complete record of your staff’s weekly, daily or even hourly activities.
● Send a WFH email to your colleagues. This workflow will automatically send a “Working From Home” email to all the employee’s colleagues, ensuring transparency amongst teams - even when team members are working in completely different locations!
● Send a "Working from home today" SMS to your manager. When an employee is working from home, their manager needs to know about it! This Power Automate workflow uses the Vonage (formerly Nexmo) APIs to send a “Working From Home” SMS to the employee’s manager. This workflow is ideal when an employee realizes they have to work from home at the last minute, and needs to notify their manager now - and not when they next check their inbox!
Creating an automated work tracker, with SharePoint
Studies show that remote employees typically work longer hours than their on-prem counterparts, with 53% of remote employees routinely working over 40 hours in an effort to support their colleagues. However, many employers still worry about how to effectively monitor their remote workers.
If you want some additional reassurance that your remote workers are actually working, then you can use Power Automate to record your employees’ location and activities. This workflow can also be useful if you need to maintain records for health and safety reasons, or you simply want to collect data on your employees’ working habits, so you can identify any opportunities to maximize productivity.
Creating a SharePoint site
Before you can create your Power Automate workflow, you’ll need to create the SharePoint list where you’ll record the location and activity data:
● Sign into your Office 365 account.
● Select the “SharePoint” application.
● Click “Create site > Team site.”
● Give your new SharePoint site a descriptive name.
● Open the “Privacy settings” dropdown and choose whether this site should be members-only, or visible to everyone in your organization.
● When you’re happy with the information you’ve entered, click “Save.”
● Add any additional members and owners to this site, and then click “Finish.”
● Next, we need to add a list to our SharePoint site, by clicking “New > List.”
● In the panel that appears, give this list a descriptive name.
● Click “Create,” and SitePoint will generate your list.
● Now, we need to create three columns where we’ll record the date and time, location and activity data. To start, select “Add column > Date and time.”
● In the subsequent panel, give this column a title.
● Open the “Type” dropdown and select “Date and time.”
● Click “Save.”
● Select “Add column > Location.”
● In the subsequent panel, give your location column a descriptive title.
● Open the “Type” dropdown and select “Location.”
● Click “Save.”
● Time to create our third column! Select “Add column > Single line of text.”
● In the subsequent panel, give your column a title; I’m using “Activity.”
● Open the “Type” dropdown and select “Single line of text.”
● Click “Save.”
At this point, your list should consist of the following columns: Title, Date and Time, Location, and Activity.
Make a note of your list’s URL, as you’ll be needing this in the next step.
Creating an automated work tracker
We’re now ready to create our automated workflow. To make life easier, I’ll be using one of Microsoft’s ready-made Power Automate templates:
● In your web browser, log into the Power Automate app.
● In the left-hand menu, select “Templates.”
● Search for the following template: Report current location and activity.
● When the “Report current...” template appears, select it and read the onscreen information. If you’re happy to proceed, then click “Create Flow.”
● On the subsequent screen, click to expand the template’s “Create item” section.
● In “Site Address” copy/paste the URL of the SharePoint site we created in the previous step.
● In “List Name,” select the list we just created.
At this point, Power Automate will try to populate the template’s “Date and time,” “Location” and “Activity” fields automatically. Depending on how your SharePoint site and list are setup, you may need to tweak these pre-populated fields, or enter the following information manually:
● Title. Click to select the “Title” field and then select “x-ms-user-name” in the subsequent dropdown.
● Date and time. Click to select the “Date and time” field and then select “Timestamp” from the subsequent dropdown.
● Activity. Click to select the “Activity” field and then select “Activity” from the dropdown menu.
● Location. Click to select the “Location” field and then select “FullAddress.”
Once you’ve completed all the above steps, click “Save.” Your workflow is now up and running, and your employees are ready to start logging their remote working activities.
Testing your automated time and location tracker
Now, every time an employee needs to record their location and activity, they can just:
● Launch the Power Automate app on their smartphone or tablet.
● Select the “Buttons” tab.
● Tap the following button: “Report current location and activity.”
● The employee can now enter their current activity, and tap “Done.”
All of this information will now be added to your SharePoint list, and you’ll have a complete record of the time, date and location where each employee was performing a specific work activity.
Need to work from home? Creating automated email and SMS notifications
Flexible working is the key to a happier, healthier and more productive workforce, but you’ll still need to know where your employees are!
If your employees have the option to work from home, then you should provide them with an easy way to notify their co-workers and manager(s) whenever they need, or simply want to WFH.
In this section, we’ll build two workflows: a workflow that an employee can use to send a WFH email to their colleagues, and a workflow that sends a “Working from home” SMS to their manager.
By implementing both of these workflows, you can ensure that all relevant parties are notified if an employee plans to spend the day working from home.
Automatically send a WFH email to all colleagues
Let’s start by creating a workflow that sends a WFH email to all of the employee’s colleagues. Everytime the employee runs this workflow, they’ll receive a push notification on their smartphone or tablet, confirming that their email was sent successfully.
To create this WFH workflow:
● Log into the Power Automate app.
● In the left-hand menu, select “Templates.”
● Search for the following template: Send a working from home today email to your colleagues.
● When the “Send a working from home...” template appears, select it and read the onscreen information.
● If you’re happy to proceed, then click “Create Flow.”
This template will work out-of-the-box, but you may want to customize the text that’s included in the WFH email:
● Click to expand the “Apply to each” box.
● Click to expand the “Send an email” box.
● You can now change the email’s subject line and body text, as required.
When you’re happy with your workflow, click “Save.”
Now, every time an employee needs to work from home, they can notify all their colleagues by launching the Power Automate mobile app and giving the “Send a working from home...” button a tap.
An email will now be generated and delivered to the employee’s colleagues.
Keep managers in the loop, with this SMS-based template
While it might be enough to notify colleagues via email, it may be more appropriate to notify managers via SMS. For example, perhaps your managerial level employees regularly travel, attend workshops or meetings, or perform other tasks that take them away from their laptop for an extended period of time.
If you can’t rely on your managers to check their inbox on a regular basis, then why not contact them via SMS instead?
This workflow does require a Vonage account, so you’ll need to head over to the Nexmo website and create an account, if you haven’t already.
In order to connect Power Automate and Vonage, you’ll need to enter your Vonage API Key and API Secret, so let’s retrieve this information now:
● Log into your Vonage account.
● In the left-hand menu, select “Getting started.”
You should now see the API Key and API Secret; make a note of this information as you’ll be needing it in the following step.
Send an SMS to your manager, with the tap of a button
Now, we’re ready to create our SMS-based workflow:
● Log into Power Automate.
● In the left-hand menu, select “Templates.”
● Search for the "Send a Working from home today SMS to your manager” template, and select it when it appears.
● You’ll now need to connect your Vonage account to Power Automate, so click to expand the “Nexmo” section. When prompted, enter your API Key and API Secret.
● Click “Create Flow,” and Power Automate will load your chosen template.
● Click to expand the “Send an SMS” section.
● You can now edit the push notification that’ll be displayed every time an employee runs this flow. I’m editing the static text to read “WFH SMS sent successfully to...” By default, this push notification also features the manager’s email address, but I’m displaying the manager’s phone number instead, as I feel this information is more relevant.
● Click to select the “Sender Id” field.
● In the popup that appears, select the “Dynamic content” tab.
● In the “Search” field, type “ID.”
● Select “Get my profile: ID.”
● Next, click to expand the “Send a push notification” section.
● Once you’ve made your changes, click “Save.”
Put your Power Automate and Vonage workflow to the test
Now, employees can send a WFH text to their manager, simply by tapping a button:
● Launch the Power Automate mobile app.
● Select the app’s “Buttons” tab.
● Tap the following button: “Send a Working from home today SMS to your manager.”
This workflow will now send a WFH SMS to the employee’s manager and display a push notification on the employee’s smartphone.
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