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Should emails during the commute count as work time?

It reduces the amount of admin they have to do once they reach the office, freeing them up to concentrate on other tasks

With smartphones and tablets leading to an extension of the working day for millions of people who send and reply to work emails during their commutes, there is currently a lot of debate about whether employees should be paid for this time.

Some researchers believe the time spent emailing on either side of the regular office hours should be taken into consideration and should count as a part of the normal working day.

Many employees say they like to send and receive emails on their way to the office because it helps them to get a head start on the day. It reduces the amount of admin they have to do once they reach the office, freeing them up to concentrate on other tasks.

Many employees also like to manage their emails at the end of the day during their evening commute. For some, this is a chance to catch up on work they didn’t have time for during the day, while others use it as an opportunity to get a head start on the next day’s work.

For workers in certain fields with international offices spread around the globe, the hours either side of the normal working day are essential. These are the only times they can quickly get in touch with colleagues in certain far-away time zones.

Dr Jain from the University of the West of England says that allowing workers to count their commute as part of the working day could lead to staggered starting and finishing times, easing the pressure on crowded commuter services and making peak travel times much more comfortable and less stressful for employees; however, she also admits that employers would want to be able to check up on staff to ensure they were doing the work they claimed during their commute.

It seems unlikely that the idea of incorporating the commute into the daily working hours of employees will be widely adopted just yet; however, as technology continues to advance and more and more people seek to achieve a satisfactory work-life balance, the debate is sure to continue. The rise of flexible and remote working in recent years has seen a number of employees working from home or other remote locations – on a full-time, part-time or occasional basis – and the commute to the office is really only an extension of this.

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