Don’t Allow Traveling to Work to Turn into Overwork


Many employees admit that traveling to work is one of the most time-consuming activities of their average day. When commuting takes too long, that tends to turn into an overwork problem – especially for mobile workers who perform their activities in different locations.

Should the time to travel from one location to another count as work time? The answer is yes. In order to prevent mobile employees from overworking due to their commuting time, business owners and HR managers should follow the European Regulations for mobile workers.

These define the work week, which hours count as work time, and what the employers need to take into account so that no individual on their team ends up working more than 48 hours per week.

Understanding The Problem

Employees operating out of the office spend a significant part of the workday traveling from one client to the other. As that is necessary for them to do their job, it won’t be fair not to consider commuting as actual work time.

To ensure all work-related activities are calculated as working hours, employers can use the European regulations for mobile workers as a rule of thumb, and use time-tracking software to calculate this time accurately.

The European Working Time Directive

The European Working Time Directive, or EWTD, is an initiative by the European Union that ensures workers are safe and healthy. That means having a limit to how many hours they can spend working on a weekly basis, calculated for each week or as an average for a longer period.

Here are some of the most important decisions of the directive:

  • An employee can work a maximum of 48 hours per week (with exceptions in certain industries).
  • In case an individual wants to work more, they can opt out of the 48-hour rule.
  • The workweek includes any tasks and activities related to the job, as well as training, paid and unpaid overtime, commuting, business meetings outside of the office, and more.

Volunteering to work overtime, holidays (paid or unpaid), and any traveling outside of the working hours, are all things that can’t be considered work time;
The period used to calculate whether a mobile employee works more than 48 hours per week is 17 weeks.

As we can see, the regulation doesn’t apply to the commute time of office employees. As for mobile employees, the commute time between locations is covered by the regulation that prescribes to count time spent on any tasks and activities related to the job as work time.

Clearly Defining What Working Time Means in Your Company

Plenty of misunderstandings are a result of not defining what is and what isn’t considered working time at an organization.

A good example is the case of the Spanish company Tyco Integrated Security. When employees traveled from their home to the first client they were about to meet, that wasn’t counted as working time. Although this doesn’t meet the guidelines of The European Working Time Directive, that company decided that going from home to the first client, and traveling from the last client back home, wasn’t going to be added to the number of weekly hours worked by that mobile employee.

It’s important to create a team where everyone’s needs are met. Letting employees know what working time means exactly is one step towards achieving such balance.

Next, allow the employees to choose whether or not to opt out of the 48-hour rule. Be careful not to make people feel like they have to do it, as then the opt-out agreement won’t be valid. Each individual should know they have the right to choose the option they prefer and that won’t affect their relationship with the company.


Business owners and HR managers should re-consider their policies regarding the mobile workers’ commute time. If you’re in the European Union, you might end up answering to The European Court of Justice in case employees notice that when their commute time to clients is added to their working hours, that’s more than 48 hours per week.

But even if you reside elsewhere, it’s worth using The European Working Time Directive as an example of what should be considered working time when managing a team of mobile workers.

Last but not least, in order for employers to be in control and for employees to have reports of their activities during the week, a special mobile app would be of great help. At the end of the day, everyone knows exactly how many hours were spent working and so the employee can be compensated accordingly.

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