More Americans are doing work at home

Lisa Scherzer
Lisa Scherzer
Getty Images

The way Americans are spending their time is shifting, according to a new report out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, revealing some interesting trends. More Americans are spending time working from home – particularly true for those with advanced degrees. Meanwhile, a higher share of men are doing housework and everyone continues to watch a lot of TV.

In 2016, the share of workers doing some or all of their work at home grew from 19% in 2003 (the first year the survey was conducted) to 22% in 2016, according to the BLS’s Time Use Survey. In the same period, the average time people spent working at home on days they worked increased by 34 minutes (from 2.6 hours to 3.1 hours). The BLS survey breaks down how Americans spend their days by a number of characteristics, including employment status, gender, age and whether children are in the home.

According to the BLS, 83% of Americans who were employed did some or all of their work at their workplace while 22% did some or all of their work at home. They spent more time working at the workplace (7.9 hours) than at home (3.1 hours).

Who tends to work more at home? People 25 and over and with an advanced degree were more likely than people with lower levels of education to work at home: 43% with an advanced degree did some work at home, compared with 12% with a high school diploma.  And one-third of workers spent some amount of time working during the weekends.

In terms of gender differences, on the days they worked, employed men worked 56 minutes more than employed women. “This difference partly reflects women’s greater likelihood of working part time. However, even among full-time workers (those usually working 35 hours or more per week), men worked longer than women—8.4 hours, compared with 7.8 hours,” the BLS said.

On average those employed worked 8.02 hours a day in 2016, slightly higher than the average 7.82 hours in 2010.)

Average hours per day spent doing work and work-related activities among people employed

Household activities

The amount of time spent doing housework kept along the traditional gender divide, but there was some improvement over the past decade-plus.

On an average day, 85% of women and 69% of men spent some time doing things like housework, cooking, or other household management.

On the days they did household activities, women spent an average of 2.6 hours on them, while men spent 2 hours.

From 2003 to 2016, the share of men doing what the BLS categorized as food preparation and cleanup on an average day increased from 35% to 45%, and the share of women doing these chores also grew, from 66% to 70%.

Over the 2003-2016 period, the share of women doing housework on an average day declined from 54% to 50%. And the average time per day women spent doing housework declined a whopping 6 minutes – from 58 minutes in 2003 to 52 minutes in 2016.

Leisure activities

Men spent 44 minutes per day more in these activities than did women (5.5 hours, compared with 4.8 hours).

Watching TV is the most popular leisure activity for everyone and the one that occupied the most time (2.7 hours per day), accounting for just over half of leisure time, on average, for those age 15 and over. Interestingly, people spent the same amount of time watching TV (2.7 hours per day) in 2010, according to the BLS survey.

The amount of time people spent watching TV varied by age. Those ages 15 to 44 spent the least amount of time watching TV, averaging around 2 hours per day, while those 65 and over spent the most – averaging over 4 hours per day. People spend an average 39 minutes a day socializing, visiting with friends or attending social events. In 2010, that number was around 45 minutes a day.

The average time spent sleeping? 8.8 hours a day (with women sleep slightly more than men, according to the survey). That’s up from 8.68 hours in 2010.

Child care

Adults living in households with children under age 6 spent an average of 2.1 hours per day providing primary childcare to household children – slightly higher than the 2 hours a day in 2010.

And on an average day, among adults living in homes with kids under age 6, women spent 1.1 hours providing physical care (such as bathing or feeding a child) to children, compared with men who spent 26 minutes providing physical care – the same amounts as in 2010.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. Note that in this chart “working and work-related activities” is the average for all people age 15 and over in the civilian population (including employed, unemployed, and not employed persons) and all days in the week.
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