Does reading emails on the train count as work?

Many commuters saw train travel as an opportunity to catch up on their to-do lists

Does reading emails on the train count as work?

Reading work emails on your commute instead of a novel or newspaper? You’re probably not the only one. But should this count as part of your working day? Researchers from the University of the West of England think it should.

A study conducted by the university’s Centre for Transport and Society has found that out of more than 5,000 commuters using train wifi on routes into London, over half (54 per cent) were checking their work emails. 

According to the research, conducted in collaboration with Arriva UK Trains, Chiltern Railways and BAS LLP, commuters who were interviewed saw their commute as a time for “catching up” on work activities or “preparing” for their day. 

Findings revealed 30 per cent of people travelling from Birmingham to London opted for train travel because it provided an opportunity to be productive. 20 per cent of those taking the same route said free wifi was their main reason for travelling by train. 

Researcher Dr Juliet Jain said the study illustrates how the line between work and leisure time is being blurred by the expanding availability of wifi.

She said: “If the commute is undertaken in personal time, is this productivity going unrecognised? Employers might want to review flexible working policies and consider not only working from home, but also working on the move as alternative work spaces.”

She added, however, that this may raise further questions about obligation to work and worker wellbeing, when “sometimes someone might want to relax and watch a video on their iPad”. 

Chris Kerridge, product owner at MHR, added: “The lines between work and leisure are continually blurring. The traditional 9 to 5 working day is no longer the norm.

“As working practices have evolved, what constitutes working time is no longer easy to define and organisations should try and provide clarity where possible to prevent an ‘always on’ culture.”