Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

HR professionals work four additional weeks each year on their daily commute – for free

New research from specialist HR recruiter Ortus reveals that over three quarters (76%) of HR professionals work during their daily commute and spend an average of 42.5 minutes completing work related tasks while travelling to and from the office

  • Over three quarters (76%) of HR professionals spend an average of 3.5 hours a week working on their commute
  • This is equivalent to an additional four weeks worked annually – but 78% receive no remuneration for this
  • Value of unpaid additional work per person is £2,189 per year[1]
  • Majority of employers – 69% – are aware that this additional work takes place

New research from specialist HR recruiter Ortus reveals that over three quarters (76%) of HR professionals work during their daily commute and spend an average of 42.5 minutes completing work related tasks while travelling to and from the office.

The 42.5 minutes is equivalent to:

  • 3.5 hours a week;
  • 14 hours a month (nearly two full extra days of work);
  • 168 hours a year (more than four full weeks of work).

Almost four fifths (78%) of HR professionals who work while they commute do not see this additional effort reflected in their basic pay, bonus, holiday in lieu or additional days off work which means that the majority are effectively working for free.

Of those who are remunerated for their additional work almost half (48%) see that return in their basic salary and 41% receive time off in lieu. In comparison, only 11% see this additional work reflected in the form of a bonus. This suggests that extra work put in outside conventional office hours may no longer be viewed as “above and beyond” the norm.

Simon Bassett, Managing Director at specialist HR recruiter Ortus, said:

“Smart technology and the widespread availability of Wi-Fi means that the UK’s workforce is now a mobile one whose ability to work is far less restricted by geography and contracted hours of work. This is good news for those who need the flexibility to work remotely, but has also led to an extension of the working day. It seems that for many HR professionals the daily commute is a key time in the schedule for catching up or getting ahead.

“Those who work while they travel may feel that a few minutes here and there is part and parcel of the role and will pay off in terms of long term career progression. Even so, we are still talking significant numbers when this time adds up to 168 hours of extra work every year that by and large aren’t paid for, at an unpaid value of £2,189 each. Our research raises important questions about whether this work is in fact necessary, whether it should be limited to ensure employee well-being and if it ought to be rewarded – and how.”

Has tech made employers more miserly? 

The majority of employers (69%) are aware that this additional work is taking place, which raises questions about whether it is perceived as adding value to the business or a natural consequence of developments in technology. 

Almost two thirds (63%) of HR professionals who work on their commute felt under pressure to do so, while more than a fifth (21%) felt they could not keep up with the demands of their job without this extra work.

Of those who currently do not work while travelling into the office, 21% feel the pressure to start doing so due to the demands of their role.

However, more than a quarter (28%) of those who work while they commute were not sure whether this additional work was essential to their role – suggesting that the boundaries of work and individual roles are now blurred or – in some cases, non-existent.

A recent academic study[2] found that those who take public transport to work have higher levels of well-being than those who drive in, but also suggested that these benefits might be negated where commuters do not get the chance to relax.

Simon Bassett continued:

“Our research highlights the irony that the vast majority of HR professionals, who are entrusted with safeguarding employee rights, are working the equivalent of four additional weeks every single year on their commute – and for nothing more than a sense of keeping their daily workload in check.

“As most employers are aware of this activity but do not reward it, we must ask whether the digital age has led to a more blasé attitude about additional work. Just because it isn’t in the office doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable.

“With the number of job vacancies on the rise[3] in the recovering jobs market employers may need to start working harder to retain their top HR talent. This should include acknowledging, praising and rewarding additional work completed outside of the office beyond normal working hours – or reducing any unnecessary burden.”

Research is based on a survey of 164 HR professionals.

[1] Based on hourly salary of £13.03 according to ONS

[2] Research from University of East Anglia and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) on commuting to work

[3] According to the Labour Market Report from ONS November 2014 vacancies are up 136,000 annually 22,000 on the quarter.