People are working out of hours more than ever before
Ever felt like you can’t escape work? You’re not alone as it seems that over half of us use train Wi-Fi to send work emails, according to research from the University of the West of England.
In the paper Continuously connected customer, to be presented to the Royal Geographical Society on Thursday, researchers explored the various uses of Wi-Fi on commuter trains. By increasing the availability of Wi-Fi on two intercity lines (Birmingham to London, and Aylesham to London), the study found valuable information about the way commuters use their travel time.
The data shows that free Wi-Fi usage is highest among business travellers and commuters, with many of them using it for out-of-hours work. Given that the average train time between Aylesham and London is an hour and forty minutes –and it’s only a few minutes fewer for Birmingham –daily work hours for some commuters could be extended by as many as three hours.
The average working week of a Londoner is 33 hours, however checking emails and doing other work during a commute from somewhere like Birmingham brings that up to a whopping 48 hours a week. There are a plethora of recorded social and health problems associated with working more than 48 hours a week, and the study shows train travellers are inadvertently engaging in work-related activities for far longer than they think.
Some leisure travellers used the Wi-Fi for work too. Many travellers stated that the distinction between work time and leisure time was “often blurred”. This isn’t a new phenomenon either, last year the French government passed laws allowing commuters to ignore work emails out of hours to help improve their work-life balance. Regardless, self-employed and freelance workers are often dependant on travel time to work, and any law can only have a limited effect.
It was also discovered that commuters sometimes use their own mobile data for work due to poor Wi-Fi connectivity, doing so to maximise their ability to connect to the internet. This dedication to working shows how important commute time is to some people, and how it constitutes an important part of the workday.
The study concluded that rail operators should capitalise on their ability to provide Wi-Fi connections to passengers. Not only would it provide commuters with the potential to work while travelling, but it makes the train a more attractive proposition than taking a car or bus to work.
As anyone who has taken a train to or from London will know, there are many other problems facing rail networks than patchy Wi-Fi. Though the study admits that high prices, poor punctuality and crowded trains are more important problems that train companies still have to address, it argues that the implementation of broader – and more reliable – Wi-Fi access will help put trains back on track with other modes of transport for commuters.