More relaxation and reflection, less socialization
SAN DIEGO (AP) – The outbreak of COVID-19 last year nearly doubled the proportion of people working from home in the United States, with the change most pronounced among college graduates and workers in fields such as finance and professional services.
The share of employed people working from home rose from just 22% in 2019 to 42% in 2020, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
This was one of the striking findings of an annual government survey that documents the huge impact the viral pandemic has had on the daily lives of Americans since it struck in March of last year. The US Time Use Survey details how people spent their time in 2020, from work to relaxation to sleep. Survey participants, all 15 years of age or older, are interviewed over the phone about everything they have done in the 24 hours prior to the interview. (For 2020, the report only covered May through December, after the virus caused data collection to be suspended earlier in the year.)
Due to the pandemic and the widespread social estrangement it necessitated, people on average spent more time in the past year sleeping, watching TV, playing games, using a computer, and sleeping. relax and think – and less time socializing and communicating in person – than in 2019. Adults also spent more hours, on average, caring for children in their household.
The survey also supports concerns that the pandemic has exacerbated the isolation of millions of Americans. With people working from home or attending school online, the time they spent alone increased. Among Americans aged 15 and over, the time spent alone each day increased by an average of one hour. For those aged 15 to 19, it increased by 1.7 hours per day.
Among workers with at least a bachelor’s degree aged 25 and over, 65% who were employed reported working from home during the 24-hour survey period in 2020, an increase of 28 percentage points. percentage compared to 2019. In contrast, only 19% of workers in the same age group whose maximum level of education is a high school diploma worked from home in 2020, compared to 13% in 2019.
The shift to remote work was less common in sectors of the economy that involve face-to-face contact or specialized business facilities – from leisure and hospitality to transport and utilities – than in sectors that do not.
While the share of people working remotely increased for both men and women, the increase was slightly higher for employed women. The share of women working from home jumped 23 percentage points in 2020, compared to an increase of 16 percentage points for men.
More time spent at home, at work or otherwise, meant that Americans were spending less time on the road. The average time spent on trips, such as commuting, decreased by 26 minutes per day from 2019 to 2020.
Liana C. Sayer, director of the Maryland Time Use Laboratory at the University of Maryland, suggested that the shift to telecommuting likely accelerated Americans’ preference for flexibility in scheduling their work schedules – and perhaps raised expectations that employers will accommodate them.
“Workers have indicated in surveys by companies and other research groups that they prefer the ability to work from home and set their start time and end time as they see fit. their other needs, ”Sayer said. “Some report that they don’t really want to come back to life like they did in the office before the pandemic. “
The Department of Labor’s annual survey seeks to measure how, where and with whom Americans spend their time. The latest results revealed that the increase in time spent babysitting in 2020 reflected the cancellation of in-person school instruction, sports and other events for children. Adults whose youngest child was between 6 and 12 spent 1.6 hours more per day looking after a child while doing something other than their main activity than in 2019.
At the same time, fewer adults living with children provided babysitting on any given day in 2020. This may have reflected less time spent picking up and dropping off children from in-person activities.
The data also showed increased gender differences in childcare: Women spent 13 more minutes per day in 2020 directly caring for children in their household in 2020 compared to 2019, while men spent about the same time in 2020 as in 2019.
And women spent 46 more minutes than men doing education-related activities for the children in their household in 2020. In 2019, men and women spent about the same time on these activities.
Analysis of survey data from the Brookings Institution found that mothers of children 12 and under at home spent, on average, more than eight hours babysitting. Brookings’ analysis also found that working mothers provided 7.4 hours of weekday child care in 2020, spending more time than employed fathers, unemployed fathers and inactive fathers.
“Child care is now a full-time job for mothers,” said Lauren Bauer, economics fellow at Brookings. “They spend over eight hours a day babysitting and their working hours have suffered. Even though they juggle both childcare responsibilities and work, they are now working less than before.
With many businesses closed due to public health recommendations, the investigation found less time spent in bars, restaurants, grocery stores and malls, and more time at home. People aged 15 and over also spent more time with members of their own household than in 2019 and fewer hours with everyone.
People spent, on average, 32 more minutes a day on sports and recreation in 2020 – a function, in part, of declining employment and travel during the pandemic. They also watched more TV and got a few extra minutes of sleep each day.
“If people are well rested, I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world,” said Daniel Hamermesh, an economist at Barnard College who studies the economics of time use. “I am in favor of more leisure. So I don’t think this implies anything negative about the economy that we don’t already know. “
AP Economics writer Christopher Rugaber in Washington contributed to this report.