Should Employees be Paid for Commuting Time?

An interesting piece of research on publicly available WiFi access in England led to a question that made me pause. Should employees be paid for commuting time?

As someone that travels a fair bit for work, I know the value of being able to connect and work from any number of strange locations–restaurants, hotel lobbies, airports, etc. But what about the commutes that make up a significant part of the day for so many workers? From the piece:

Interviews with customers revealed why internet access was as important for commuters as business travellers. Many respondents expressed how they consider their commute as time to ‘catch up’ with work, before or after their traditional working day. This transitional time also enabled people to switch roles, for example from being a parent getting the kids ready for school in the morning to a business director during the day.

Until now, there has been little research to evaluate the impact free Wi-Fi provision has had in the UK, despite government encouragement for companies to provide access on transport networks. The researchers looked to Scandinavia to see how commuting time could be measured differently, and found that in Norway some commuters are able to count travel time as part of their working day.

Dr Juliet Jain told the conference: “If travel time were to count as work time, there would be many social and economic impacts, as well as implications for the rail industry. It may ease commuter pressure on peak hours and allow for more comfort and flexibility around working times. However it may also demand more surveillance and accountability for productivity.”

Changing the Script on Work/Life Balance

Twenty years ago commuters riding on trains and other passive modes of transportation (basically anyone that’s not driving, biking, or walking to work) might have been able to work in some capacity, but it was very limited.

Today, with 24/7 access to networks, resources, etc., the conversation has changed. The very technology that has forced us to have very tough conversations about work/life balance could now offer a small way to add more balance to our lives.

We know that more than 90% of workers say they are LEAST PRODUCTIVE IN THE WORKPLACE, which means they need to find other times and places to be productive and meet their work goals. Could this option to get paid for working during commuting hours change that? What’s your take? Is it a good idea?