What back to school means for shift workers

It’s that time of year again. The weather is cooling off, the leaves are starting to change, and our little ones are returning to the schoolyard. The major difference this year? COVID-19. For many the return to school is often anticipated and exciting, however this year there’s an air of unease. Return to school protocols are constantly evolving with the changing landscape of regional COVID-19 cases, and parents are left wondering what it means for them and their families.

For many workers, especially shift workers, there’s an unease about what the protocols are for working with sick children. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while the positive cases of children have remained low, they are not exempt from contracting COVID-19. Schools, therefore, needed to consider this when creating safety regulations. Many schools have enforced strict policies requiring students to remain at home for 14 days (and until their symptoms have disappeared) if they show any signs of COVID-19

So, what does this mean for parents?

Some employers and workplaces are fortunate enough to enable their employees to work remotely. However, that isn’t the case for everyone. Hospitals and other shift-work employers need to ensure they are properly staffed to serve their patients and customers. These organizations can’t function without employees physically in the workplace. Employers need to adopt strategies to keep their employees informed and their shifts filled.

With the strict ‘stay home’ regulations in place at schools, there is a greater risk of an increased number of employees calling in sick or taking personal days to look after their children. Employers need to have an efficient system in place to fill those shifts. 

What happens if an employee or their child test positive for COVID-19? 

The CDC encourages employers to implement contact tracing to help prevent the spread of the disease. This is another issue employers must prepare for. They need to have smart systems in place to properly trace employee contacts as well as notify their employees of potential infection rates.

In order to ensure a safe and healthy workforce, employers need to adopt strategies and methods to communicate with their staff and fill required shifts. Keeping staff up-to-date on COVID-specific issues and contact tracing information is important. This will help to assure employees and let them know their employer values their safety. In order to keep production running smoothly, and patients properly cared for, shifts need to be filled with healthy employees. 

While returning to school is a little more complicated this year, there are solutions employers can put in place to keep their workforce strong and healthy. Adopting strategies for contact tracing and effective communications with employees are two ways employers can maintain support, safety, and productivity in the workplace.


How Andgo can help

Our smart absence management software was designed for complex scheduling environments. Broadcast allows customers to easily communicate one-time alerts, bulletins, and/or instructions to employees.  This keeps employees up-to-date on what’s happening in the workplace. Smart Call automates the communication of available immediate need shifts to eligible employees, streamlining the shift-filling process. Quick Dial is an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system that optimizes the way scheduling departments receive, direct, and process incoming phone calls.

Read more about how Andgo’s absence management solutions can help your organization during COVID.

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Want to see how Andgo can help your organization? Contact us for more information.

Broadcast helps the SHA mobilize a team to go North

Saskatchewan recently saw a spike in COVID-19 cases in a northern community. It was imperative to mobilize a team of healthcare professionals as quickly as possible to assist the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority in managing the outbreak. The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) needed to get support to the north immediately, so they turned to Broadcast for help. 

Andgo’s Broadcast module allows mass one-way communication to be sent to a configurable group of employees via text message, email, or phone. The SHA was able to send a Broadcast to its users in search of volunteers to help the northern community. It only took one day for more than 100 individuals to answer the call and volunteer to travel north to assist in fighting the outbreak. The fast response to the Broadcast is a great example of Saskatchewan residents coming together as a community to combat COVID-19. 

We love seeing our systems being put to work and creating positive change. We’re just a small piece of the equation in the fight against COVID-19, and we couldn’t be more proud. This is why we started Andgo. We work hard to provide Healthcare industries with communication tools they need to keep their staff informed.

Read more about how SHA is increasing its support in the Northwest to contain COVID-19 here.

How Broadcast Helps

Clear communication with employees during this trying time helps eliminate uncertainty. Broadcast allows employers to control the messaging across all regions and workforces. It’s important to keep employees up-to-date with the latest news, especially in a situation where the status is changing every hour. Broadcast helps organizations by providing them with a way to community important information to a large number of employees at once.

We’re here to help

Check out our COVID updates for information on how we can help your organization throughout this time.

Follow us on Twitter for more updates.

Expansions for the Saskatchewan Health Authority

Building off their earlier expansion of Andgo services and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) was looking to expand the new provincial response site to include filling open shifts related to COVID-19. The pandemic hit in the middle of shifting from a regional technology system to a system that encompasses the entire province. In the weeks since COVID reached the province, Andgo has been working on expansions for the Saskatchewan Health Authority to enable their entire workforce and users to access unfilled shifts and schedule information related to COVID-19.

Expansions for the Saskatchewan Health Authority

The SHA requires a single site to manage and find placements for all COVID-19 related shifts for their entire workforce. This expansion includes providing online schedules related to COVID-19, and enabling all users to bid on open shifts online. This site is a response to COVID-19 shifts that need to be filled after the regions have attempted to fill them. They also need to accommodate filling shifts for physicians and volunteers.  

Increase in Users

The SHA has increased its users of Andgo’s software from 15,000 to 90,000 in a matter of weeks. The original scheduling database did not include physicians prior to this pandemic. It was discovered early on that this had to change, and Physicians had to be included in the process. A newer development is volunteers. Volunteers are needed due to the higher demand for health care workers due to COVID-19. Overall, Physicians and volunteers were added to the pool of provincial healthcare workers so they can mobilize their workforce to tackle the new high and in-demand needs to help in managing COVID-19.

Adding all physicians, volunteers, and the entire province-wide workforce increases the active users on the site to 90,000 in a given moment. This is a huge increase from the 15,000 users prior to COVID-19.

Visibility of open COVID-19 shifts

The SHA needs COVID related open shifts to be visible to their entire workforce. It’s important for all registered SHA users to be able to view and select all COVID related open shifts online. This new update will allow Scheduling Staff to upload the open shifts every five minutes for users to view and select. This enables them to stay on top of possible shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Viewing schedules for COVID-19 shifts

Another update to the system is enabling all users to see their schedules for COVID-19 related shifts. Schedules are often changing from day to day in the healthcare industry, especially during this pandemic. All users registered with the SHA, including, physicians and volunteers, will be able to view their up-to-date COVID-19 shifts online.

We’re here to help

Check out our COVID updates for information on how we can help you throughout this time.

Follow us on Twitter for more updates.

How Broadcast helps Healthcare Professionals stay informed during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing organizations on the frontlines to adapt to new challenges. One of these challenges is how they communicate with employees. Clear communication is crucial to ensure employees are receiving up-to-date information, especially in the healthcare sector. This is where we can help. Our Broadcast module helps Healthcare professionals stay informed of COVID-19 updates. It allows Health Regions to communicate information across their workforce all at once, keeping employees informed with the latest news. 

The Problem

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is merging each of the former regions into a single technology ecosystem. This has been a massive undertaking, and as of March, it is nearing completion. However, due to COVID-19,  SHA needed a way to easily and quickly communicate to all of its employees while this project is still under development.

This is where Andgo comes in.

The former Saskatoon Health Region is currently set up with the Broadcast module. The problem is this only covers approximately a third of the SHA workforce, and it does not include the capability to notify physicians. In other words, our team had to work fast to expand the Broadcast module to include the entire SHA workforce.

The Solution

This past week we tripled the capacity of the Broadcast module for SHA. It now provides coverage across the entire province. Additionally, we expanded the Broadcast module to notify physicians. The result is that all SHA healthcare professionals are being notified instantly of any updates and changes regarding COVID-19 via text message, email, and phone. 

For more information, visit Andgo’s COVID updates page.

How Broadcast helps Healthcare Professionals

Broadcast allows our customers to easily and efficiently communicate important information to all of their employees at once via text, email, and phone. This keeps employees up-to-date with the latest news and changes as they happen. Clear communication with employees about COVID-19 updates helps eliminate uncertainty and keeps healthcare professionals informed. Above all, the Broadcast module allows Healthcare organizations to focus on fighting COVID-19 and trust that their employees are staying informed.

The Broadcast module can work well for any large organization. All we need is lists of employees based on departments, teams, locations, etc., and we can set up mass messaging. Contact us to see how Broadcast can help your organization.

We’re here to help

Check out our COVID updates for information on how we can help you throughout this time.

Follow us on Twitter for more updates.

Innovation in a time of crisis

As much as COVID-19 has separated and isolated us as we practice physical distancing, it has also brought us together as a community, united by the same goal.  Right now there is no ‘us’ or ‘them’, just ‘‘we’. This community which we are all a part of relies on each member to do their part. Each member has an important role to play in helping the community. Creativity and innovation will be a driving force throughout this time of crisis.

How are companies showing innovation?

This pandemic has brought fear and unease to much of the world, but it’s also sparked compassion and innovation. Many companies are stepping up and doing what they can to help their communities. Big businesses are making big donations, offering free services, and ensuring their employees are cared for. Other organizations are donating space to help with overflow hospital beds, and services to help manufacture personal protective gear and hand sanitizer. The list goes on, and the compassion is endless.

Here are just a few examples of the great work being done:

  • Saskatchewan Polytechnic donated 7 pallets containing thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies to health regions throughout the province.
  • A University of Saskatchewan engineering team is designing a comfortable, reusable, and sanitizable N95 class respirator mask aimed at protecting emergency room doctors and nurses from COVID-19 in the midst of a global shortage of medical-grade masks.
  • Bauer is creating face shields for medical professionals.
  • Honeywell is partnering with the US government to expand its manufacturing operations to produce N95 face masks.
  • Canada Goose has dedicated manufacturing resources to make scrubs and patient gowns.  
  • Many big-name tech companies, like Apple, Salesforce, PG&E, Tesla, and IBM have donated significant supplies of PPE to local hospitals.
  • Many distilleries like are producing hand sanitizer for public sale or to donate to health regions due to the shortages.
  • Grocery stores are helping seniors and those more vulnerable with dedicated, special hours for shopping.
  • Many other companies are donating money and finding creative ways to feed the hungry.

This list is inspiring and keeps growing every day. More and more companies are coming up with creative solutions and helping turn the tide of the pandemic. As a result, we have hope for the future and what it holds.

How Andgo is helping

At Andgo, we want to do our part and help where we can. It’s important that everyone do what they can to support the efforts to fight this virus. We are working tirelessly with our Healthcare partners to ensure that no shift goes unfilled. During a pandemic such as this, it is vital that our Healthcare providers are able to maintain staffing and ensure patients are receiving the care they need.

COVID-19 has added extra strain to many industries, especially Healthcare, and so our primary focus has been on improving and expanding our features for them. We have rapidly developed and deployed COVID-specific communication and shift filling tools.  These tools are available to new user groups such as physicians and volunteers in order to expand Healthcare provider’s communication and scheduling capabilities. We will continue to help where we can and do what we do best by helping Healthcare organizations keep their shifts filled.

We’re here to help

Check out our COVID updates for information on how we can help you throughout this time.

Follow us on Twitter for more updates.

Keeping The Pair Programming Magic Alive When Working Remotely

A review by Teresa Hume.


In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Andgo has had to quickly adjust to working remotely over the past couple of months. We realized early on that the way we closely work together doesn’t translate very well into working remotely given the tools that we use day-to-day. The biggest challenge being how to effectively pair when working remotely?

There are a ton of benefits to pair programming: knowledge sharing, code review, and getting practice on those communication skills to name a few, so making sure we can work together seamlessly is really important for our developers. Here are a few of the tools we’ve tried out and where we landed for pairing while working remotely.

There are a few features, in particular, we were looking for when researching and trying out tools: 

  • Voice & video quality for smoothly flowing conversations. 
  • Screen sharing capabilities to easily interact with code posted on a pair’s screen.
  • Security. We don’t want our application code available to the public.
  • Integration with our existing toolset.


Our company uses Slack for most of our internal communication. Slack is a great tool for chat. Seeing as we were already using it, it was the obvious first tool to try out for remote pair programming. Its text-based chat game is really strong, but we found its built-in voice and video calls suffer from latency issues. This makes it hard to have a smooth conversation. The screen sharing is pretty laggy, and while you can draw on the shared screen, the drawing is slow as well. All of this combined led to the pairing experience being awkward overall.

The Pros:
  • Currently using it for internal communication so wouldn’t be introducing a new tool
  • Built-in screen sharing
  • Supports video/voice chat with many people.
  • Draw feature on shared screens.
The Cons:
  • Too much latency to have smooth conversations.
  • Screen sharing latency issues.
  • Screen sharing interaction is limited to drawing.


Zoom is the new, popular video call software. It boasts very solid video and call quality, screen sharing with shared drawing interaction, and of course, the ability to set goofy backgrounds. I had tried out Zoom with family calls and found the quality to be way better than the built-in Slack calls, so I figured it was worth looking into. Conveniently, Zoom also has a Slack integration, meaning it would fit in well with our current set of tools. Zoom is not really geared towards pairing though, and the articles on Zoom’s security and privacy policy that have recently come out are kind of scary.

The Pros:
  • Video and voice quality is top-notch.
  • Nicely supports many call participants and different ways to view participants.
  • Screen sharing is reasonably fast and easily lets you switch which desktop you are sharing.
  • Integrates with Slack.
  • All participants in a session can share their screen.
  • Fun backgrounds.
The Cons:
  • Screen sharing interaction is fairly limited. You can draw on the shared screen, but you can’t click around and interact with the sharer’s screen.
  • There are some obvious security concerns, although, with the increased scrutiny that Zoom has been under, they seem to be tightening things up.
  • Zoom isn’t really geared towards pair programming.


We do most of our development using an IntelliJ IDE, so I did some research into potential tools to hook into PyCharm. What I found was Floobits. Floobits allows pairing developers to interact with the same code in a shared environment. Unfortunately, it has a major drawback that took it out of the running before we even gave it a test run. All of the application code you intend to pair on must be uploaded to a third-party server. Security-wise, this is just not acceptable for our needs, but it’s probably a tool worth trying out if you are working on open source projects.

The Pros:
  • Integrates with IntelliJ IDEs, so it should fit in well with development workflow.
  • The shared screen is interactive for all developers in a session.
The Cons:
  • Have to upload your application code to their server.
  • I can’t speak to the call quality of Floobits as we wouldn’t be able to use it for security reasons anyway, so did not end up testing it out.


First off, kudos to the team at Screen for opening up their software to the world while it’s still in beta to try and help people who are suddenly having to manage working remotely. The developer behind Screen actually co-founded Screenhero, which is Slack’s current built-in video call & screen sharing application. We figured they knew what they were doing. As a bonus, it also has a Slack integration that can be configured, therefore hooking into our existing tools. Screen has some definite potential. The voice quality is great, all session participants can directly interact with the shared screen, and you can see a video of everyone in the call. Ultimately, we found that it still had some issues that need to be worked out before it could be a serious contender. It doesn’t handle showing all participant videos. Once you pass a certain number of people, their videos just fall off the end of the screen. And while the screen interaction is a cool feature, it was much too slow for us to actually make use of it. When multiple users try to interact with the shared screen at the same time, things get even slower.

The Pros:
  • Voice and video quality is an improvement compared to Slack’s built-in calls.
  • Full-screen interaction capabilities.
  • They are offering their software’s standard paid version for free in an effort to help out during the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Solid privacy policy, using P2P connections when possible.
  • Integrates with Slack.
The Cons:
  • Screen has some obvious bugs that are yet to be worked out.
  • The screen interactions are clunky and slow.

USE Together

USE Together is a tool that is very much geared towards pairing remotely. It supports session sizes of up to four participants, is voice only, has great screen sharing and interaction, and integrates with Slack. As an added bonus, their privacy and security policy is great. Sessions are P2P so your data isn’t going through a third-party server, and they don’t capture or store any of your calls. This was hands down the best tool we found for remote pairing. There is essentially no latency interacting with the shared screen. Multiple users can interact with the screen at the same time without any issues, and the call quality is fantastic, more like a phone call as far as responsiveness.

The Pros:
  • High call quality.
  • Next to zero latency full interaction with the shared screen.
  • Any session participants can switch to sharing their screen.
  • Great security and privacy policy.
  • Integrates with Slack.
The Cons:
  • It only supports 4 participants per session. But when pairing you probably don’t want more than 2-3 people involved anyway.
  • If you choose to log in via Slack option when creating your USE account, it creates an account with your listed Slack email address. This proved to be problematic when inviting team members. New invited team members’ emails must match the address that the invitation was sent to. We recently aliased our email domain, so several people had trouble initially joining the team. This is easily avoided by not creating your account through Slack, and just using a password manager instead.


What Did We Choose?

In case the reviews didn’t give it away, we decided to adopt USE Together as our remote pairing tool. Everyone on our team also really preferred Zoom to Slack’s built-in calls for things like daily standup meetings, retrospectives, and other meetings that don’t really need full-fledged screen interaction tools. Therefore, we decided to adopt Zoom as well, and just make sure the required configuration for members of the team is set to as secure as we can make it by default. Our team is now set up to successfully pair while working remotely.

Having the right tools really makes remote working and pairing much easier. Hopefully, this helps a few other teams find tools that will work for them!



About the Author

Teresa Hume

Teresa is a Tech Lead with Andgo. She has been an integral part of the crew since 2015. She is a full-stack web developer working with the Django web framework, celery, backbone, CoffeeScript, Javascript, and MySQL. At Andgo, Teresa is a great mentor and colleague, always willing and eager to share her knowledge and offer support. She never backs down from a challenge and is actively involved in the local tech world.



More about Andgo

Andgo Smart Absence Management was developed specifically for complex scheduling environments. By working with Andgo, you get the benefits of working with a knowledgeable and experienced team familiar with complex scheduling processes, procedures, and requirements.

Andgo’s Smart Absence Management system has created immense value for each of our clients through the automation of complex scheduling workflows. At Andgo we understand no two organizations are the same. With this in mind, we have designed our system to accommodate the unique requirements and use cases of your organization.

Contact us to see how Andgo can help you!

How Andgo responded to the toll-free challenges created by COVID

New challenges are coming up with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many businesses have shifted to working remotely, and telephone and communication channels are being put to the test. Toll-free lines are opening up to the many public queries coming in due to the pandemic. Governments and Health Regions needed a way to effectively communicate with the public in an efficient way. Toll-free was the answer. All of these changes led to an increase in toll-free usage, which then resulted in crashes. Andgo was not left unaffected as some of our modules require the use of toll-free numbers. Below we’ve outlined how Andgo responded to the toll-free challenges created by COVID-19.

In the past couple of weeks, there has been an exponential increase in phone traffic due to COVID-19. Phone networks are seeing congestion that is causing toll-free numbers to have connection problems (i.e., sometimes you can’t reach them). This problem affects the public as well as our own business. Our Quick Dial module typically uses toll-free numbers for employees to call into when reporting an absence or trying to leave a message for scheduling teams. With the issues facing the phone networks, we had to come up with a solution so that Healthcare employees could continue to call in and the system could continue to run smoothly.

How Andgo responded to the toll-free challenges created by COVID

Andgo responded to the toll-free challenges by creating an online interface for employees to indicate their absence through any internet-connected device, in addition to the phone number. This provides consistent access for employees to report absences even when there are phone network problems. We were able to apply this fix in two days, which ensures healthcare providers are staffed with the right people at the right time.

We’re here to help

Check out our COVID updates for information on how we can help you throughout this time.

Follow us on Twitter for more updates.