Reading work emails on the train or bus has become so common place in the UK that it should count as part of the working day, researchers have said.
A study by the University of the West of England analysed people’s internet use while commuting, particularly after wifi had become available, and found the majority of passengers go online in order to do work outside of traditional working hours.
The researchers suggested the UK should take its lead from Norway, where some commuters are already able to count travel time as part of their day.
Over a 40 week period in 2016-2017, Chiltern Railways incrementally increased the amount of free wifi available to its customers on its mainline route, and around 3,000 customers were surveyed for the study.
The results showed 54% of commuters on the Birmingham to London route were using the train’s wifi to send work emails, which increased to 60% once wifi availability was extended. Many others used their own mobile data to do the same.
Interviews from the study revealed many commuters use their commuting time to finish off work they wouldn’t otherwise feel able to complete.
One participant, who travels from Aylesbury to London, said: “It’s really important to my sanity that I can get work done on the train. I am a busy mum and I rely on that time, so I can get things done.”
Another who travels from Birmingham to London added: “It’s more a buffer rather than something I have to do and I would say that the majority of the time it’s an option for me to, you know, clear the decks for the day, relax and put work behind me more than anything else.”
A third participant also traveling from Birmingham to London said: “It’s dead time in a way so what it allows me to do is finish stuff and not work in the evenings.”
Commenting on the findings, researcher Dr Juliet Jain said: “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.
“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.”