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Hot topic: Working while commuting, part two

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?

Siobhan Howard-Palmer, an associate at HRC Law, said:

From a practical perspective this would be very difficult to monitor. If work done on a commute was considered working time this could affect the breaks provided by an employer, potentially exposing businesses to liability if employees are not given adequate rest breaks.

As employees become more connected, HR departments may want to consider how best they can encourage a work/life balance to avoid complications over working time, work-related stress and disengagement.A short policy on work//life balance could remind employees they should take breaks, monitor hours, talk to a manager if they are feeling stressed and take care of their welfare. There could be specific mention of commuting and the employer’s approach within this.

Employees do need to take responsibility for their own welfare outside of work as an employer does not have the same level of control or monitoring as in the workplace. But employers can still play a role in empowering positive behaviours.

Dawn Moore, HR director at Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure, said:

At Morgan Sindall we encourage the general principle of agile working and provide support to our employees to do this wherever we can, recognising that employees have different ways of working and circumstances that suit them.

However, ensuring that employees have a good work/life balance is at the heart of workplace wellbeing. We are very active in promoting a positive balanced culture to ensure that the choice of working remotely, on trains for example, is left very much up to the employee, with the appropriate information security in place.

We get feedback that this works well for some people who find they can be very productive on a long commute so they can save time elsewhere, while others feel the opposite. Ensuring that people don’t feel pressured to conform to unhealthy working practices is key.What is important to us is that employees feel supported to be productive at a time and pace – and from a place – that suits them.

Read the first part of this hot topic