The ease and ubiquity of wi-fi makes it that much easier to be plugged in at all times. In fact, it’s often expected. Many people who commute by bus, train or other public transportation usually find themselves checking work email during their journey into the office. And now new research out of the U.K. says this commuting commonality could actually ease rush hour traffic if it was considered part of the work day.
During a 40 week period from 2016-17, researchers at the University of the West of England examined 5,000 passengers and how they use free internet on their commute to work. During this time, British train company Chiltern Railways incrementally increased the amount of free wi-fi available to its customers on its mainline route.
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According to the study:
Results show that by the end of the 40 weeks, commuters had made the most of the rise. On the Birmingham to London route, the proportion of commuters connecting to the free Wi-Fi rose from 54% when 20MB was offered to 60% when 125MB was offered. In comparison, connection by mobile data fluctuated around 48%.
Passengers who were interviewed for the study said they considered their commute as time to catch up with work outside of office hours. This transit time, according to the study, 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.
In Norway, some commuters are actually able to count travel time as part of their working day. How nice would that be?
Very nice, according to researcher Dr. Juliet Jain, who spoke at a conference on Thursday, saying, “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.”
Alan Riley, Customer Services Director at Chiltern Railways, said that the results just reinforce how wi-fi on trains increases productivity.