Recent media discussion has raised the question of whether dealing with work emails whilst commuting to and from the workplace should be counted as part of the working day. Let’s take a look at what’s being said.
Researchers have found that commuters on their way to work were actually using their journeys to catch up on emails in advance of starting their working day, and that those on their way home were actually spending their commute completing work they hadn’t managed to finish during the working day.
Instead of providing flexibility with working, the study revealed that access to technology during the commute actually makes people work longer hours as well as increasing pressure.
‘The findings raise questions about the work-life balance and whether it is healthy to stretch out the working day with people routinely answering emails beyond office hours’, the BBC said.
The working day has been extended, says study
Increased access to Wi-Fi on trains and the widespread adoption of smartphone use has extended the working day according to a study conducted by the University of the West of England. The study polled 5,000 rail passengers on commuter routes into London. It revealed that 54 per cent of commuters use the Wi-Fi on the train to send work emails, whilst others used their own data connections to do the same.
Those on the way to work were catching up with emails in advance of the working day, whilst returning commuters were finishing work off that they hadn’t managed to complete during the working day. The study showed that as internet access has improved, it has led to extended working hours on smartphones and laptops. Commuting parents even reported the journey as a ‘transition’ from parenting roles to working roles.
Many workers see the commute as an opportunity to clear the decks before they get home so they can put work behind them until the next day.
The research findings do raise questions concerning work-life balance and whether it is indeed healthy to stretch the working day both ways beyond office hours.
Should dealing with work related emails during the commute count as work time?
“There’s a real challenge in deciding what constitutes work,” said Dr Jain, from the university’s Centre for Transport and Society who also said it would mean employers would want “more surveillance and accountability” for how commuters were spending their time before getting to their desks.
“This increasing flexibility has the potential to radically shift the work-life balance for the better – but it also leaves open the door to stress and lower productivity,” said Jamie Kerr, of the Institute of Directors.
“With the concept of clocking on and clocking off no longer straightforward, defining where leisure begins and work ends will be vital for both employers and individuals, as well as a complex task for regulators.”
A policy on working hours and how extra-curricular time is to be treated is vital. Be sure to take appropriate legal advice.