If you live and work in London, it won’t surprise you to hear that the London commute is the most stressful commute in the UK. But rather than wallow in self-pity, let’s indulge in some wishful thinking for a second; how much more bearable would your daily journey be if you were paid to do it? Would some routes demand a bigger paycheque than others?  Which journey would warrant higher reward, a trip on the Northern Line or the Central Line? This is a pub debate to end all pub debates!

These questions may seem fanciful, but they will have been prominent in the minds of many employees in the last week. Why so? Because the European Court of Justice has ruled that time spent travelling to and from first and last appointments should be regarded as ‘working time’ – something that is not considered as ‘work’ by many employers. It means that firms employing care workers, gas fitters and sales reps may now be in breach of EU working time regulations.

While the legislation has been described as ‘momentous’ for those working outside of a fixed office, for large sections of London’s population there will be no real change. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your bank balance won’t be bolstered by your Boris bike ride into the office any time soon!

How do we define ‘work’

The legislation does however prompt us all to ask a deeper question: what is work? It is traditionally defined as paid labour, falling into clearly defined times and spaces. We earn our living in one place, and then go about enjoying this living elsewhere. But is it as simple as this in today’s ‘remote access’ world?

Led by initiatives like the London Design Festival, there is a growing movement in London aimed at dissolving the boundaries between work spaces and home spaces; a divide that can be problematic, as our last blog post explored.  Work often extends beyond contracted hours as well. There are plenty of occasions when we work even when we’re not working: rehearsing that presentation with toothbrush in mouth, picking apart the day over a glass of wine or even, heaven forbid, dreaming about work.

Work is not as easy to compartmentalise as we may think.

The key question is: do we want to draw firmer boundaries between work and play or to break them down? Rather than seeing work as a means to an end, the My London Works movement encourages us to rethink the way we define the concept. Our blogs and Twitter feed offer new ideas about how to approach and experience work in London.  Why leave it to government institutions to question what work is when we can do it ourselves?

Work is changing. It is not only up to employers to drive this change, but employees as well. At a time when lawmakers are shifting the parameters of the working day, it may be time to reflect on why these parameters are so firmly entrenched in our psyche.

Tell us what you think and join our conversation on Twitter!


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