Percentage of People Working from Home

Percentage of People Working from Home | American Time Use Survey Summary

Republished with the permission of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics

The percent of employed persons working at home on days they worked nearly doubled during
the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, rising to 42 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
reported today. Average travel time, such as commuting to work or driving to a store,
decreased for all demographic groups.

Data about how Americans spent their time during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in
2020 were released today from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS). Estimates in this news
release include the average amount of time per day individuals worked, engaged in leisure
and sports activities, provided childcare, traveled, and more. Estimates about where and
with whom Americans spent their time also are provided.  

Estimates in this news release are representative of May 10th through December 31st and
highlight 2020 ATUS data collected during the pandemic. For comparison, estimates
representative of this same period in 2019 also are shown. BLS selected this period
because ATUS data collection was suspended early in the pandemic to protect the
safety of interviewers. For a detailed description of ATUS data and methodology,
see the Technical Note. 

Working in May to December 2019 and 2020

   --Average time spent working declined by 17 minutes per day from 2019 to 2020,
     reflecting a decrease in the share of the population that was employed. On a given
     day in 2020, 39 percent of the population spent time working, compared with 43
     percent of the population in 2019. (See table 1.)

   --On days they worked, the amount of time employed persons spent working was about the
     same in 2019 and 2020--7.7 hours in 2019 and 7.6 hours in 2020. (See table 4.)

   --As many employers expanded the use of telework, the percent of employed persons 
     working at home on days they worked nearly doubled, rising from 22 percent in 2019 to
     42 percent in 2020. On days they worked at home, employed persons did so for an average
     of 3.6 hours in 2019, compared with 5.8 hours in 2020. These averages include all time
     spent working at home, whether or not the work was done on a scheduled workday. 
     (See table 4.)

   --Both men and women were more likely to work at home on days they worked in 2020 
     compared with 2019. The percent of employed men who worked at home increased by 16
     percentage points, from 20 percent in 2019 to 36 percent in 2020, while the percent of
     women increased by 23 percentage points, from 26 percent in 2019 to 49 percent in 2020.
     (See table 4.)  

   --Workers with higher levels of education were much more likely to work at home in 2020
     than were those who had less education. Among workers age 25 and over, 65 percent of 
     employed persons with a bachelor's degree or higher worked at home on days they worked 
     in 2020 (up from 37 percent in 2019), compared with 19 percent of employed persons
     whose highest level of education was a high school diploma (up from 13 percent in 2019).
     (See table 4.)

   --By industry, from 2019 to 2020, there were large increases in the share of employed
     persons working at home on days worked for those employed in financial activities (up
     40 percentage points); professional and business services (up 25 percentage points);
     and education and health services (up 23 percentage points). By contrast, there were 
     smaller increases for workers in leisure and hospitality (up 8 percentage points); 
     transportation and utilities (up 9 percentage points); wholesale and retail trade (up
     10 percentage points); and manufacturing (up 11 percentage points). (See table 5.)

Time Spent Traveling in May to December 2019 and 2020

   --Time spent traveling, such as commuting to work or driving to a store, declined by 26
     minutes from an average of 1.2 hours per day in 2019 to 47 minutes per day in 2020. 
     The share of individuals who spent time traveling on a given day declined 17 percentage
     points in 2020, from 84 percent in 2019 to 67 percent in 2020. Those who spent time
     traveling on a given day did so for a shorter duration (1.5 hours in 2019, compared 
     with 1.2 hours in 2020). (See table 1.) 

   --Declines in the average time per day spent traveling were widespread in 2020. The 
     average time spent traveling decreased for all race, ethnicity, sex, and age groups; 
     households with and without children; and individuals who were employed and not
     employed. (See table 3.)

Childcare in May to December 2019 and 2020

   --On average, among adults living with children under 18, time spent providing primary
     childcare on a given day was about the same in 2019 and 2020 (1.2 hours and 1.3 hours
     per day, respectively). Primary childcare is childcare that is done as a main 
     activity, such as providing physical care or reading to children. (See table 6.)

   --Fifty-three percent of adults living in households with children provided childcare
     on a given day in 2020, down from 61 percent in 2019. As in-person school, sports, and
     other activities were curtailed in 2020, individuals were less likely to spend time
     picking up and dropping off children, which are classified in the other childcare 
     activities category. As a result, the share of adults engaging in other childcare
     activities on a given day fell by 13 percentage points in 2020, and contributed to 
     the overall decline in the percent of adults providing childcare on a given day. 
     (See table 6.)

   --Women spent an average of 1.7 hours per day and men spent an average of 46 minutes 
     per day caring for and helping household children as their main activity in 2020. 
     Women spent 13 minutes per day more in 2020 compared with 2019, while men spent about
     the same amount of time doing this activity in both years. (See table 7.)

   --On days they did education-related activities for household children, adults did so
     for an average of 1.0 hour in 2019 and 2.2 hours in 2020. Women and men spent the 
     same amount of time doing these education-related activities in 2019 (1.0 hour). 
     However, women spent 46 minutes more than men doing these activities in 2020 (2.4 
     hours, compared with 1.7 hours). (See tables 6 and 7.)

   --Adults living in households with at least one child under age 13 averaged 6.1 hours
     per day providing secondary childcare in 2020--that is, they had at least one child
     in their care while doing activities other than primary childcare. This was an 
     increase of 1.0 hour from 2019. With many children's events canceled and schools 
     switching to virtual learning, the increase in time spent providing secondary 
     childcare was largest for adults in households whose youngest child was ages 6 to 
     12. These adults spent 1.6 hours more per day providing secondary childcare in 2020
     compared with 2019. (See table 8.)

   --Among adults living in households with children under age 13, in 2020, men averaged
     4.9 hours and women averaged 7.1 hours per day providing secondary childcare. Both 
     men and women spent about one hour more per day providing secondary childcare in 
     2020 compared with 2019 (up 49 minutes for men and 1.1 hours for women). 
     (See table 8.)

Leisure Activities in May to December 2019 and 2020

   --Average time spent in leisure and sports activities increased by 32 minutes per
     day, from 5.0 hours in 2019 to 5.5 hours per day in 2020. Leisure time increased 
     by an average of 37 minutes per day for men and 27 minutes for women. This increase
     partly reflects a decline in average work time as the share of the population that
     was employed fell during the pandemic, as well as a decrease in the average time 
     individuals spent traveling. (See tables 1 and 2.)

   --Watching TV was the leisure activity that occupied the most time in 2020 (3.1 hours
     per day), up 19 minutes per day compared with 2019. (See table 9.)

   --Time spent playing games and using a computer for leisure increased by 10 minutes 
     per day, and time spent relaxing and thinking increased an average of 7 minutes per
     day in 2020. Time spent socializing and communicating in person declined by an 
     average of 7 minutes per day. (See table 9.)

   --Individuals ages 15 to 24 spent more time playing games and using a computer for 
     leisure than those who were older in 2020. Those ages 15 to 19 spent an average of
     1.9 hours per day playing games and using a computer for leisure (up 39 minutes 
     from 2019) and those ages 20 to 24 averaged 1.4 hours per day in this activity (up
     30 minutes per day from 2019). (See table 9.)

   --Individuals living in households without children under age 18 spent an average of
     6.1 hours per day in leisure and sports activities in 2020, compared with 4.4 hours
     per day for those living in households with children. Compared with 2019, time spent
     in leisure and sports activities increased by about half an hour per day for each of
     these groups in 2020 (up 36 minutes for those living in households without children,
     and up 25 minutes for those living with children). (See table 9.)

Household Activities and Consumer Purchases in May to December 2019 and 2020

   --Compared with 2019, both men and women spent more time in 2020 doing household 
     activities, such as housework, cooking, lawn care, and household management. Men spent
     an average of 16 minutes more per day doing these activities in 2020, while women 
     spent 11 minutes more per day. However, men continued to spend less time in these 
     activities in 2020 than did women--1.6 hours versus 2.4 hours. (See table 2.)

   --The average time per day that individuals spent shopping--which includes online and 
     in-person shopping--declined by 5 minutes, from 22 minutes per day in 2019 to 17 
     minutes per day in 2020. Thirty-four percent of those age 15 and over spent time 
     shopping on a given day in 2020, compared with 40 percent in 2019. (See table 1.) 

Time Spent by Location in May to December 2019 and 2020

   --As part of an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, individuals were asked to
     stay at home. During their waking hours, those age 15 and over spent an average of 2.1
     hours per day more at home in 2020 (9.7 hours) than in 2019 (7.6 hours). Women spent 
     about 34 minutes more at home on a given day in 2020 than did men (10.0 hours, 
     compared with 9.4 hours). (See table 10.) 

   --Many restaurants and bars closed indoor dining due to the pandemic, and stores
     implemented guidelines for safe shopping. On a given day in 2020, 16 percent of 
     individuals age 15 and over spent time at a restaurant or bar, compared with 27 
     percent in 2019. Twenty-five percent of individuals age 15 and over visited a 
     grocery store, other store, or mall on a given day in 2020, compared with 31 percent
     in 2019. (See table 10.)

Time Spent with Others or Alone in May to December 2019 and 2020

   --In 2020, during the pandemic, individuals were encouraged to stay at home and to 
     practice social distancing. During their waking hours, individuals age 15 and over
     spent an average of 1.0 hour more per day alone in 2020 (7.0 hours) compared with
     2019 (6.1 hours). Average alone time increased for all demographic groups, 
     including all age groups, persons living in households with and without children,
     and others. (See table 11.)

   --In 2020, individuals age 55 and over averaged about 8 hours or more per day alone
     during their waking hours, more than those who were younger. Time spent alone 
     increased by 1.7 hours for those ages 15 to 19 (6.0 hours in 2020, compared with
     4.3 hours in 2019). (See table 11.)

   --Individuals living by themselves spent an average of 11.3 hours per day alone in
     2020 and 9.7 hours alone in 2019. By comparison, adults living with a child under
     age 18 averaged less than half as many of their waking hours alone (5.3 hours per
     day in 2020 and 4.7 hours in 2019). (See table 12.)

   --In 2020, Americans were advised against interacting with members of other 
     households during the pandemic. On a given day in 2020, 8 percent of the 
     population age 15 and over provided care or assistance to individuals who did not
     live with them, compared with 11 percent in 2019. On days they provided care to
     nonhousehold members, those who did so averaged 38 minutes more per day providing
     this care in 2020 (1.9 hours per day in 2020, compared with 1.3 hours in 2019).
     (See table 1.)

   --In 2020, individuals age 15 and over spent more of their waking hours with
     members of their households than they did in 2019 (4.8 hours per day, compared 
     with 4.5 hours) and fewer waking hours with nonhousehold members (2.9 hours per
     day, compared with 4.4 hours). (See table 12.) 

Additional Data 

ATUS 2020 data files are available for users to do their own tabulations and analyses.
In accordance with BLS and Census Bureau policies that protect the privacy of survey
respondents, personally identifying information does not appear on the data files. 
The 2020 data files, with data for all days the survey was conducted, are available
on the BLS website at www.bls.gov/tus/data.htm.

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