Digital Transformation

Paperwork Through the Ages: The History of Documentation in the Workplace

By

Paycom Blog Contributor

| Oct 14, 2020

To truly appreciate the technology of today, it helps to look back and ponder the road to progress. For documents and paperwork in the workplace, that road goes back a long way.

A brief history

In ancient China, bureaucrats recorded agreements between states in triplicate — one copy for each party and one for the spirits — and stored them in vast archives, according to Mark Kurlanksy’s 2016 book, Paper: Paging Through History.

Several centuries later, the paper revolution entered its next stage. Medieval Europe saw the steady development of paper mills, enabling a relatively primitive form of mass manufacturing. In 1440, this was followed by one of the most groundbreaking inventions in human history, the printing press, which shifted the process of document creation from painstakingly manual to reliably mechanical.

In ancient China, bureaucrats recorded agreements between states in triplicate

A few more centuries passed. As civilization entered a more modern era, the business world as we know it took shape — a world of job applications, time sheets, expense reports and tax forms. In postwar America, business boomed, along with the population. But paper documents remained physical objects, taking up a large amount of space on desks and in file cabinets.

Enter the mainstream computer. That world of paper documents? It was disrupted by fast-changing computer technology. Two game-changers still very much with us, the Adobe PDF and the electronic signature, made their initial appearance in the 1990s.

In 1440, the printing press shifted the process of document creation from painstakingly manual to reliably mechanical.

A new era?

Perhaps the last revolution in workplace documentation — the digital revolution — is still underway. After all, 82% of businesses remain paper-based, according to BizTech magazine. While physical documents could have conceivably become obsolete by now, old-fashioned paper remains a constant presence in many corporate environments, continuing to consume valuable space.

The collective reluctance to make that final push is understandable. Old habits die hard, and the world is changing fast.

But there is a better way.

Employee Self-Service also enables employees to make changes to their information without the need for physical forms.

Consider Paycom’s Employee Self-Service® as a paperless, all-digital tool for 2020 and beyond, giving employees direct access to their own HR data. For example, W-4s and I-9s can be completed by new hires via computer or smartphone — even before their first day on the job — and securely accessed at any time.

Employee Self-Service also enables employees to make changes to their information without the need for physical forms. For example, selecting a new health plan during open enrollment or changing a 401(k) contribution amount can be accomplished with just a few clicks.

It’s a process that not only increases efficiencies, but also carries the potential to save more than a few trees, making a positive difference in the world around us.

For other document-related needs, Paycom also offers Documents and Checklists. This digital document-management tool enables you to create, assign, archive and retrieve forms and/or to-do lists with ease so your organization can streamline processes like onboarding and training while helping ensure compliance with laws and regulations.

For other document-related needs, Paycom also offers Documents and Checklists.

Then there’s Expense Management, which helps bring a formerly cumbersome process into the age of apps. For the employee, submitting an expense becomes as easy as snapping a phone picture of a receipt and sending it through the Paycom mobile app or a designated email address for equally simple managerial approval.

When you embrace the technology of now, you can prepare your organization for tomorrow. To learn more about how our single software can help your business go paperless, click here to schedule a personalized demo.