E-mails read and sent during commute to the workplace should be counted towards the overall working hours of an employee, researchers from a UK university said here today.
A study conducted by the University of West England analysed 5,000 rail passengers and found that 54 per cent spent their journey to work looking at emails.
The researchers concluded that wider internet access on trains had caused a “blurring of boundaries” between life at home and work for the workforce in Britain.
“If travel time were to count as work time, there would be many social and economic impacts, as well as implications for the rail industry,” said Dr Juliet Jain, from the university’s Centre for Transport and Society who conducted the study with colleagues Dr Billy Clayton and Dr Caroline Bartle.
“It may ease commuter pressure on peak hours and allow for more comfort and flexibility around working times. However, it may also demand more surveillance and accountability for productivity,” she said.
Her team highlighted how Norway allows some commuters to count travel time as part of their working day.
But the research team concluded that UK trains in future would need to offer good working environments, including tables, power and continuous connectivity, if this opportunity was to be fully capitalised on.
This would require investment from train operators and telecoms companies, they said.
The team analysed the uptake of free Wi-Fi on two of Chiltern Railways’ major routes – London-Birmingham and London-Aylesbury – to see how commuters use free internet on their journeys.
Over a 40-week period in 2016-17, Chiltern Railways incrementally increased the amount of free Wi-Fi available to its customers, and the results show that commuters made the most of this rise.
The team presented the findings of their research at the Annual International Conference of the Royal Geographical Society in Cardiff, Wales, today.
Commenting on the study, the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) head of employment, Matthew Percival, said: “Flexible working practices are valued by employees and employers.”
“Having the freedom to email on the go enables employees to fit work into the times that best suits them, whilst offering flexibility helps employers to recruit and retain staff.”
“A common-sense approach is needed, giving individuals the tools to manage their work-life balance.”
The research comes alongside another recent study, which found that taking time off work can help you to live longer.
A 40-year study concluded that people who took fewer than three weeks of annual leave were a third more likely to die young than those who took more.