Story at a glance

  • The 2020 American Time Use Survey showed that as more workers operated remotely, people spent more time relaxing and thinking.
  • These trends run parallel to shorter working periods and commute times.
  • Many workers want to keep working remotely as nearly 42 percent now work from home.

2020 brought on major changes in how the average American spent their time, with double the amount of employed people working at home in addition to working time overall decreasing by 17 minutes per day.

Data from the American Time Use Survey released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that 42 percent of Americans currently work from home, with employees in sectors like finance and business services composing the bulk of U.S. workers.

Perhaps more interestingly than work trends were the snapshot of recreational pastimes Americans experienced during 2020. Leisure time overall increased by an average of 37 minutes per day for men and 27 minutes for women, mirroring the decline of average work and commuting time. 

As headlines have recently indicated, most workers aren’t keen on ending these new routines. 

“Workers have indicated in surveys done by companies and other research groups that they prefer having the ability to work at home and set their starting time and their ending time as they find most appropriate for their other needs,” said Liana C. Sayer, director of the Maryland Time Use Laboratory at the University of Maryland to reporters. “Some are signaling that they don’t really want to go back to life as it was in the office before the pandemic.”

Time spent watching television also increased, but just by 19 minutes on average from 2019 rates.

The survey also notes that people spent more time playing games and being online, but that simply “relaxing and thinking” also increased by at least seven minutes per day in 2020. This was accompanied by an hour increase in time spent being alone. Individuals aged 15 or older recorded spending about seven hours alone in 2020 as opposed to 6.1 hours in 2019. 

Conversely, time spent socializing fell by the same seven minutes as social distancing and lockdown measures characterized the bulk of 2020.

Larger increases in leisure time was seen among individuals in households with young children under the age of 18 than individuals without children. Both groups, however, saw increases in time spent playing games and engaging in sporting activities. 

Published on Jul 23, 2021