· 1 min read · Features

Hot topic: Working while commuting


Research from the University of the West of England (UWE) found that of 5,000 rail passengers 54% were using the train’s Wi-Fi to send work emails, leading to calls for this to be counted as part of the working day

But would this work in practice? Or should HR discourage people from working on their commutes, or set guidelines around this?

Janet Jain, senior research fellow at the Centre for Transport and Society, UWE, said:

"Our research on Chiltern Railways’ mainline service showed that 54% of commuters who were connected to the internet were checking and sending emails. Follow-up interviews with a small number indicated that people used this time to catch up with work, and that clearing emails on their commutes enabled people to focus on their main business on arrival. Few counted it as official work time.

"If it could be counted as work time this could have far-reaching implications for the individual, employers and the rail industry. A change to count the commute as work time would need a journey to be as productive as in the office, and productivity would need monitoring.Employees may need to choose to commute slightly later in the morning or earlier in the evening to avoid crowded trains. Currently there are lots of obstacles to overcome before the commute can be counted as work time."

Ben Dellot, head of the RSA's Future Work Centre, said:

"A recent RSA survey revealed that 40% of people often work excessive hours. If this wasn’t bad enough, many are not paid for the extra toil. The TUC estimates 2.1 billion hours of overtime came free to employers last year. So let’s push for work done while commuting to be included in the working day. But let’s also improve productivity so that cramming outside of working hours is no longer necessary – whether that’s burning the midnight oil in the evening or slaving away on a train carriage in the early hours. That means employers investing in the latest labour-saving technology, engaging their workers in how to make efficiency improvements, and – most of all – making sure managers are at the top of their game.

"Commuting is never going to be a joyful experience, but there are certainly better ways to spend the time than staring at a screen for hours."

Check back tomorrow for part two of this Hot Topic