Should we get paid to check email?

If it’s before or after hours, yes, and that’s just a start.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

New research out of the U.K., published at the end of August, notes that if you use your commute to catch up on work email, that time “should be counted as part of the working day.”

This incredible revelation comes from researchers from the University of the West of England, who surveyed the online habits of 5,000 rail passengers commuting on trains in and out of London over a 40-week period in 2016 and 2017.

“Many respondents expressed how they consider their commute as time to ‘catch up’ with work, before or after their traditional working day,” a summary of the study notes. “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.”

“No one should be working for free. The sad fact is many of us are.”

I wholeheartedly agree with the assertion made by this new study — if you’re working, whether it’s in the office, at home, or in transit, you should be able to count that toward your work day. It’s work for which we all should be compensated.

Of course, we don’t have commuter rail in Wisconsin, although some among us are undoubtedly risking life and limb to read or send emails and texts while driving on the Beltline and interstate every day. That belies the point that many local professionals often spend time before and after work each day — and on weekends — checking and responding to their email already, and none of that is counted toward our workday.

Honestly, this has to stop, and I’m saying that while acknowledging that I can be guilty of it, too.

There are people who love to work — not who just love what they do, but who actually love to work. They’re the kind of people who have to be doing something constantly, for whom sitting still is a unique kind of torture. They’re going to work constantly no matter what. We all know them, and to them I say, what the heck is wrong with you?

In all seriousness though, what are we doing to ourselves? What’s really being accomplished by always being on, by being available for work 24/7?

I know so many other professionals like me — salaried, exempt employees who are getting paid for 40 hours of work each week. Unlike me, they’re putting in 60 or 80 hours of work every week between the office and home.

Don’t get me wrong, I still take work home at night, but those nights are the exception, not the rule. During the busiest parts of our production cycle, when my online and print deadlines conflict, I may stay up late one or two nights out of the month to get my writing or editing done. But I’ve frankly never understood the mentality that some professionals accept: “I absolutely have to work 60-plus hours every week.”

Really? Why? What aren’t you doing during your normal workday that necessitates having to log so many extra hours just to get your work done?

I’m not trying to call out people who work hard. Quite the opposite. I know some professions require more hours during busy seasons and that some jobs require people to work late in the weeks before a big event. I am saying that if you’re working that hard, you should be compensated for it, and even in 2018 that doesn’t seem to be the case for too many workers.

No one should be working for free. The sad fact is many of us are. If getting paid for the time we spend checking email outside the office is a small step in the right direction, then I say let’s take it.

Or — try this novel concept on for size — let’s stop worrying about email after hours altogether. That work and those problems will be there tomorrow. Why not be a little more present in our personal lives and actually give a nod to that work-life balance everyone loves to talk about.

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