Checking your work emails while on your way to work should be considered real work, a new study from the United Kingdom says. Researchers from the University of the West of England found that 54% of train commuters regularly use onboard Wi-Fi to deal with their work emails, essentially extending the working day.
The study, led by Juliet Jain, is being presented at the Royal Geographical Society on Thursday.
Getting a head start on the work day or wrapping things up on your way home are just facts of life for many workers in this connected age. So is that an argument for more flexible work arrangements, or a sign that labor laws need to be updated wholesale?
“This increasing flexibility has the potential to radically shift the work-life balance for the better—but it also leaves open the door to stress and lower productivity,” Jamie Kerr of the Institute of Directors told the BBC. “With the concept of clocking on and clocking off no longer straightforward, defining where leisure begins and work ends will be vital for both employers and individuals, as well as a complex task for regulators.”
Being connected to your work all the time can lead to burnout. Another recent study from Virginia Tech found employees and their families experience harmful effects even when not actually working in the off-hours—the mere expectation of availability increases stress.
A councilman in New York City has proposed banning after-work emails in a Right to Disconnect Bill similar to a law in France that went into effect in 2017.