Current Covid-19 guidance from government and health authorities recommends various tactics for social distancing, including remote working, caregiving leave, and sick leave without doctor’s notes and other supportive measures designed to keep our workplaces safe. Paper-distancing is another recommended precaution in offices, and especially for payroll management, where some companies might still use legacy paper systems.
Avoiding paper and people
The goal of social and paper-distancing for workplaces is to reduce possible exposure or transmission through personal contact. Unfortunately, a recent study of Covid-19 indicates the virus remains viable and transmittable 1-3 days on surfaces such as paper cheques, envelopes, and so on. As quoted from Forbes:
“New research out of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) finds that the novel coronavirus HCoV-19 (SARS-2) causing the COVID-19 pandemic can survive for days on plastic, and stainless steel and even lasts up to a full day on a cardboard surface.” 
Paper fear — it started with Amazon delivery fear
Because so little is known about Covid-19, people started to ask if it was safe to touch and open cardboard boxes from Amazon. That’s where it began. Fear of paper is a real thing in this new reality. Whether the risk is small or not, there is comfort in being extra safe. One thing employers can do is move to paperless payroll systems.
Avoiding paper in payroll management
Fortunately, paperless payroll systems, direct deposit EFT, and wire transfers make this tactic manageable.
It is critical to avoid courier or mail for sending reports at this time. Guidance from health authorities discourages this practice. If your current system relies on paper, couriers, and mail, now is the time to consider a change. Electronic delivery of payslips and reports is ideal in this situation, and most payroll management services offer this. If your service provider does not currently offer remote access, you should consider changing to a provider who can manage everything without paper.
Switching providers is not challenging and is worthwhile in this scenario. Most top providers can easily import employee data and pay history and switch you to electronic systems. Although it could take up to two weeks to implement, it is worthwhile.
Make a paperless Covid-19 announcement
Most companies today are making Covid-19 announcements, not just retailers and large chains. Consider announcing via email to your entire team to reassure them that you will be handling all of their payroll needs in compliance with health guidelines and without paper. If direct payment and electronic records are new to your team, take the time to explain what you are doing. Even if you’ve had electronic filing for some time, consider making at least a basic, reassuring Covid-19 announcement.
Special situations and delayed paperwork
Paperless systems can certainly manage special payments, including travel expense reimbursement, auto allowance, and so on. Ideally, expense reimbursement forms and other special payments can also move to electronic filing or even email claims where necessary. Where paperless is not possible, a temporary solution is to stop special payments (which often require “paper” expense claim forms) and book them at a later date.
Consider requesting team-members to submit reimbursement receipts only in electronic form, either scans or photos for now. Most receipts are available today electronically. For restaurant and miscellaneous, ask them to scan receipts or take a picture with their phone for now, and send by email submission. You can always arrange to collect paper receipts at a later time. Ask them to keep the originals in their files.
Questions and challenges
Avoiding in-person meetings means that payroll questions and challenges should be exclusively handled by email, phone, or video conference. There is likely no scenario where in-person meetings in Payroll are necessary.
Reducing Covid-19 stress
Covid-19 stress is taking its toll on employees. Employers and HR Managers are asking team-members to work from home, and to self-isolate after holidays. Others are worried about their families. Reducing these stresses for team-members can take many forms, from incentivizing them to work at home, to reassure them with a safe workplace, no paper, hygiene, and firm policies.