Travel to work ruling: Who is affected and how?

Time spent travelling to and from first and last jobs by workers who do not have a fixed office should be regarded as work, European judges have ruled.

What did the court say?

Until now, those employing mobile workers who had to travel to get to or from their first or last appointment of the day were not required to count that time as work.

On Thursday, the European Court of Justice judgement ruled those without a fixed or habitual office should consider the time they spend travelling between their homes and the premises of their first and last jobs as part of their hours for the day.

The ruling relates to the Working Time Directive – the European initiative which caps the working week at 48 hours. In the UK, employees have the option of opting out of the directive.

 Employees who fall into the category loosely defined as “mobile workers” – those who habitually travel to different places of work – could be affected.

Simon Bond, an employment specialist at Higgs and Sons solicitors, says the most obvious group to fall under this definition is carers not already paid for travelling to their first and last jobs. Sales people who travel between sites and employee workmen and women, such as plumbers or electricians, could also fall into this category.

As many as 975,000 people in the UK could fall under the remit of the ruling, says Paul Sellers, a policy officer at the TUC.  And some employees could be working an extra 10 hours a week once travelling time is counted, Chris Tutton, an employment lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, adds.

I travel a lot for work, but I have a permanent office

The ruling is less likely to affect people who work both in an office and remotely. If your contract includes a permanent base, you are unlikely to be able to successfully argue you are a mobile worker, Mr Sellers says.

There may, however, be cases where it is possible to argue that a permanent base is meaningless because of the length of time spent outside the office.

I have to commute two hours every day to my office

For those with a permanent office (however lengthy your commute), this ruling will not have an effect. Mr Sellers says this final group is the “overwhelming majority” in the UK.

I think I’m affected. Should I expect a pay rise or a change in my hours?

The ruling could eventually affect pay. Unions say the ruling does not directly deal with remuneration, focussing instead on working hours and conditions. But it is possible the European judgement will be used in UK courts to challenge employers who pay an average hourly rate under the minimum wage (once travelling time is taken into account).

That could mean employers facing increased wage bills and raises an outside chance costs for some services, such as cleaners who have to travel and are paid a low wage, could go up.

It could also lead to a change in working patterns – especially for those who do not choose to opt out of the 48-hour maximum. “I think some employers will look at where they’re sending staff – they might try to make sure that the first and last shifts are as close to home as possible because they don’t want to eat into that working time that they have,” Mr Tutton said.

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Productivity and your brain

When it comes to productivity, your brain is your best ally—but are you ignoring the most important signals it’s sending?

Considering this week is Brain Awareness Week, now’s a good time to start paying attention to your mental energy and learning how to manage it to boost your productivity.

After all, it’s hard to be productive when your mental reserves are tapped, and today’s energy-draining environment is fighting you at every step. The typical response to declining energy and productivity levels is to try time management techniques so that you can catch up and stay on top of your workload. But most of those techniques are destined to fail when your energy level falls through the floor.

Instead of thinking of productivity as a time management challenge, try viewing it as an energy management issue. Because while you can’t recover time—those wasted hours are gone forever—you can recover energy.

And here’s where your brain comes into the equation.

We often let this phenomenon of energy gain and drain happen by accident, but your own mental processes play a huge role in your energy throughout the day—at work, at home and with every person you meet. In fact, your energy levels have a lot more to do with what happens inside your head than what happens outside. Becoming conscious and intentional about this aspect of your life can unlock new levels of productivity. The key is to manage your mental filters, not your time.

Here are 10 quick tips for managing your thinking to increase your productivity:

  1. Be mindful of your energy levels throughout the day. Notice the situations and people that are associated with a loss of energy as well as those that leave you “feeling the flow” and full of energy. Look for patterns: Who is involved? What happens? What time of day does it happen? Some signs that you’re experiencing a situation or person as an energy suck:
  • Your mind wanders.
  • You feel tired.
  • You feel irritated.
  • You start interrupting people.
  • You make excuses to avoid certain events and people.
  1. Maximize your productivity by keeping your changing energy levels in mind and planning for them. For example:
  • Schedule demanding tasks for your periods of highest energy.
  • Mentally prepare for people and events that seem to drain your energy.
  • Involve someone else in your interaction with an energy-draining person.
  1. Meet people where they are, energetically speaking. This is not so much about being non-judgmental as it is about developing empathy. Find out about their preferences and circumstances and what’s draining their energy. A tool like the HBDI® Profile is great for opening a conversation.
  2. Hold the context, please. He acts that way because he’s lazy. She’s doing that because she wants my job. Notice your tendency to unconsciously fill in context when interacting with an energy-draining person. Instead, ask people to proactively share their context. The Whole Brain® Model gives you a way to manage a mismatch of energy. While differences in thinking preference might be the source of the problem, we all have access to all four thinking modes.
  3. Tap into your own cognitive diversity as a way to accept diversity in others. You can either resist differences or embrace them. Embracing them allows you to reverse the energy drain that comes with resistance and start having a lot more fun.
  4. Stop multitasking. What you’re really doing is task switching, and the brain simply isn’t good at it. Studies show that multitasking compromises working memory, and the mental blocks created by task switching can eat up as much as 40% of your productivity.
  5. Master your attention. Notice when you disagree with people, and use it as a cue to give them the gift of your full attention. Even if you don’t agree, when you truly understand their perspective, you’ll be able to minimize energy- and productivity-sapping conflict. Give that gift of full attention to yourself, too: Quiet your mind for 5 or 10 minutes and decide what you will focus on.
  6. Match your tasks to your energy level. There’s only so much you can do to control what’s going on around you, but the one thing you have control over is your brain. So plan to check emails, social media and engage in similar activities that don’t require much of a mental stretch during low-energy times.
  7. Keep a “clean machine.” Your energy levels are intimately connected to your overall health. Exercise. Eat well. Get enough sleep. It’s no coincidence that these are also linked to memory, learning and attention—all essential for peak productivity.
  8. Raise your productivity and energy levels by noticing what works. The only way to keep improving and build on your successes is to pay attention so you know what’s making the difference. Make intentional attention a habit.

Energy is the pivot point in your productivity. The best way to get more productive is to get more conscious about how you manage your energy drains and gains.