Have your say: Should commuting count as work?

With a growing number of commuters in Britain using free Wifi on their journey to and from the workplace to catch up on work emails, is it time for the daily commute to be counted as part of the working day?

A new study by the University of the West of England, Bristol surveyed 5,000 passengers on two of Chiltern Railways’ major routes: London/Birmingham and London/Aylesbury. Over a 40-week period, the train company incrementally increased the amount of free Wifi available to its customers. On the Birmingham to London route, the proportion of commuters connecting rose from 54 per cent when 20 megabytes was offered to 60 per cent when 125 megabytes was offered.

Read: Should Canada follow France’s lead in clamping down on off-hours email?

The study also interviewed users about the importance of internet access to and from work, with many respondents saying they consider their commute as time to catch up with work, before or after the traditional working day. It also compared free Wifi on transport networks in Britain with Scandinavia to see how commuting time could be measured differently. In Norway, for instance, some commuters are able to count travel time as part of their working day.

“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 Juliet Jain, a senior research fellow at UWE Bristol and one of the authors of the study. “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.”

Considering the increasing focus on work-life balance, is this development a good one for the modern worker or is it just another excuse to extend the working day? Have your say in this week’s online poll here.

Last week’s poll considered whether employers should be offering pet insurance as part of the benefits package. Nearly half (43 per cent) of respondents said no, most employers already provide generous benefits, while 18 per cent said yes, it’s a reasonable request as many people consider pets to be members of their family. Some 39 per cent of respondents said the benefit is suitable as part of a lifestyle spending account.

Read: My Take: Should employers offer pet insurance?