Should checking emails while commuting count as work?

Wider access to wi-fi on trains has extended the working day, says study

Commuters check their phone crossing London Bridge
(Image credit: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images#)

Commuters who regularly use travel time for work emails should have their journeys counted as part of the working day, researchers say.

A study from the University of the West of England, which examined 5,000 rail passengers on commuter routes into London, found wider access to wi-fi on trains and the spread of mobile phones has effectively extended the working day.

The report, presented to the Royal Geographical Society yesterday, revealed that 54% of commuters using the train's wi-fi were sending work emails.

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Researchers found commuters heading into the work were using their journeys to catch up on emails ahead of the coming day, while those returning home were finishing off work not completed during the day.

Far from providing people with more flexibility over working, the study revealed that access to technology while travelling makes people work extra hours on top of their time in the office – and even increases pressure and expectations that they will do so.

“The findings raise questions about the work-life balance - and whether it is healthy to stretch out the working day with people routinely answering emails beyond office hours”, says the BBC.

This increasing flexibility “has the potential to radically shift the work-life balance for the better”, says Jamie Kerr from the Institute of Directors, “but it also leaves open the door to stress and lower productivity”.

The research comes as a new study found that taking time off work can help you to live longer.

A 40-year survey, presented at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Munich, 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.

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