If you could reduce paper forms in your organization, would you do it? In the last few months, we’ve seen an avalanche of forms and permits being issued around the world. With governments responding to the fast-moving pandemic, these forms have been essential to collect data about individuals and enforce travel restrictions:
- In France’s lockdown, any citizen moving outside their home had to print off a form explaining their reasons for travel
- Visitors to Alaska must complete forms showing how they would self-isolate if they tested positive for COVID-19 while in the state
- Visitors to restaurants and bars in Britain must fill in forms whenever visiting these premises
- South African businesses needed to print out a form showing they were an ‘essential service’ during the country’s lockdown
- Employees in the Australian state of Victoria must carry a permit whenever traveling more than 5km (3.1 miles) from their homes
There are countless other examples of similar processes around the world. Collecting data and issuing forms is without a doubt essential as governments try to manage COVID-19 spikes. However, the current approach – of printing off paper forms – has some serious flaws.
The problem with most pandemic response forms
During the pandemic, governments have either issued paper forms or produced downloadable documents that citizens and businesses print out and sign themselves. There are some major problems with this approach:
- Privacy and security
Perhaps the greatest problem with depending on paper is the issue of data security and privacy. A paper form that contains large amounts of private information about an individual (their name, address, telephone number, and even health status) can easily be stolen and misused.
- Highly inefficient
If you wish to tabulate data collected on paper forms, you will at some point need to digitize it. The cost and effort of transferring data from paper forms to a digital environment will be enormous.
- Easily damaged or lost
In many places, individuals are required to carry paper permits on them at all times. But as we know, paper is very easy to damage or lose – which means the individual or their company could be liable for major fines.
- Cost and waste
At a global level, this dependence on paper forms and permits represents billions of dollars in money spent on paper, ink, storage, and distribution. Besides the sheer cost of printing billions of forms, this also represents an inordinate and unnecessary waste of resources – especially at a time when warnings about deforestation are louder than ever.
Depending on paper forms is impractical. It requires everyone to have access to printers (which many do not at home) and puts the onus on individuals to always carry a piece of paper wherever they go.
Why you must go digital and mobile with official forms
Local and national governments, as well as many employers, should seriously consider switching away from paper forms. Here are some of the key reasons why:
- Secure data collection
All forms and the data entered into them can be encrypted and stored securely in password-protected databases. You can also more easily destroy collected information when it is no longer needed (saving yourself hours shredding paper).
- Mobile friendly
Citizens and workers can carry their updated forms with them wherever they go on their smartphones – they do not need to print off new forms each day.
- Zero paper, zero waste
Issuing digital forms and permits would save administrators and citizens significant sums of money on printing and paper costs.
Digital forms can be issued (and updated) instantaneously.
- Legible and searchable
Digital forms and permits are easy to read and the person filling in the form is alerted to any missing fields. Digital forms can also be fed into a searchable database which helps with investigations later on.
Example: digital forms in Victoria, Australia
On 5th August 2020, the authorities in the Australian state of Victoria implemented a new regulation that required all workers traveling further than five kilometers to carry a permit with them. Failure to comply could result in fines of several thousand Australian dollars.
When the scheme was launched, it was largely expected that employees would print out their own forms whenever traveling (although they would be exempt if traveling to their company HQ on the first day of travel).
However, this approach had numerous limitations – as listed above. Recognizing these problems, and in an effort to help the state reduce paper forms, Nintex developed a free digital and mobile form that all employers in Victoria could send out to workers. The form, which can be seen here, provided all the data that the Victorian government needed and generated a signed document that any worker could carry on their smartphone. This could be shown to the police or any other official who needed to see it.
To learn more about Nintex’s Victorian Worker Permit form, read the full story here.
Reduce paper forms with Nintex
Forms and permits have always been invaluable – both in normal times and in periods of crisis. However, our current overreliance on paper forms is inefficient, wasteful, and impractical. If your organization is looking to save money, store data securely, and improve your official processes, get started with Nintex, for free, today.
To experience the ease and power of the Nintex Process Platform to help you reduce your paper forms, request a personalized demo here.