Payroll in a Pandemic: What Our Peers are Saying

I recently had the pleasure to get together with a group of my favorite people: payroll professionals. During this virtual peer-to-peer discussion, payroll professionals across industries, geographic locations, and organizations were energized to speak with like-minded individuals who have faced similar obstacles over the past few months. We uncovered best practices and insider insights into productivity, regulation changes, virtual communication, and more in the payroll industry. Let’s dive into those findings:

Productivity in Chaotic Times

What started as a temporary adjustment to prevent the spread of infection has turned to a full-on remote-working world. As leaders and business owners quickly learned that employees can be just as efficient, if not more, working from the comfort and safety of their home, most physical offices turned their lights off for the foreseeable future—at least in the industries where remote work was possible. For payroll professionals, this was completely doable. The trouble that arose for some individuals, nonetheless, was finding ways to balance their workload among the distractions of not being in an office. When laundry (or the kids) call, it’s easy to be away from your computer for longer than planned.

Conversely, for some, with emails hitting inboxes after 5 PM and calls trickling in over the lunch hour, we felt that “breaks” were harder to come by in a virtual world. Even when attending virtual conferences and participating in online meetings, it was hard to ignore the emails piling up in the background. And a reduction in workforce, for various reasons, put an even greater pressure on payroll employees to respond to their clients with solutions immediately.

To combat the issue of distractions at home, we discussed organizing a to-do list for the day to prioritize what must be completed versus projects with less time sensitive deadlines. Then, set aside 15 minutes here and there to focus on the distractions in the home—get those items, like laundry, out of the way, and before you know it, it’ll be out of mind.

A simple fix to the challenge of not being able to “log off,” recommended by many individuals on the line, was to encourage employees to take mindful pauses. From turning your status to “Do Not Disturb” for 30 minutes to wrap up a project to attending virtual team lunches, a gentle reminder to balance work and life can make all the difference. Other fun breaks from the workday and stressors included get-to-know-your-team games, virtual yoga sessions and informal conversations or meetings to keep everyone connected without the pressure of a formal presentation or meeting. Ultimately, getting employees and teammates engaged during the workweek helped alleviate stress for these professionals.

Keeping Up with Regulation Changes

As legislation moves through Congress to support businesses and individuals during COVID-19, payroll regulations are evolving, too. To keep up with the changes, the payroll leaders I spoke with advised attending the IRS’s virtual update sessions to stay privy to upcoming or recent implementations. Additionally, as state regulations continue to change in different ways, it is important to get on the emailing lists of tax and law firms who monitor these state changes and can keep you in-the-know.

Communicating with Employees Virtually

Payroll professionals will be the first to tell you that many organizations continue to utilize paper in dealing with their documents, paychecks and more. In this new environment, where not everyone has access to a fax machine or an endless supply of stamps, payroll professionals are strictly promoting electronic documentation. Not only can electronic pay stubs and other documents be sent to a client or vendor quicker—online or cloud payroll programs have also ensured these methods are confidential, secure and user-friendly. The leaders I talked to demonstrated great success using payroll mobile apps and sending material via email and DocuSign. While this technology, such as mobile scanner apps, was once considered a thing of the future, it is now rapidly replacing printers and traditional mailing.

As payroll professionals continue to work from home and use technologies such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and more to stay connected with their teams, we invite you connect with your payroll peers at our monthly virtual payroll peer-to-peer roundtables. Please visit our events page to register for our next one!


This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. In addition, this publication may contain certain content generated by an artificial intelligence (AI) language model. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.

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