Working Americans last year spent far less time commuting and were able to get more sleep, relax more and spend more time on household activities such as cooking and cleaning than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, according to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey.
On nonholiday weekdays in 2021, employed Americans 15 and older on average got eight hours and 21 minutes of sleep, two hours and 44 minutes of relaxing and leisure time, and one hour and 19 minutes on household activities – all marking the highest figures in data that dates back to 2011.
The survey was disrupted due to the pandemic in 2020, resulting in no annual estimates for that year. Yet data derived from the 2021 survey indicates American workers spent about one-quarter less time on work-related travel in 2021 than in 2019, dropping from 34 minutes a day on average to just under 26 minutes – the lowest on record. Just 56.7% of those employed experienced work-related travel, down from over 70% before the pandemic.
Overall, working Americans appeared to travel for various activities far less in 2021. Travel related to work, leisure, and other responsibilities on nonholiday weekdays declined nearly 20 minutes in total to just over an hour per day.
To help fill a typical weekday in 2021, working Americans on average spent six hours and 41 minutes working, one hour and five minutes eating and drinking or traveling to do so, 23 minutes socializing, and three hours on categories encompassing shopping, family and nonfamily care, personal grooming, exercise and more. These averages include the approximately 17% of working Americans who may not work on any given weekday, including shift workers or those in industries that schedule on holidays and weekends.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a historic loss of life and long-term physical and mental health impacts, but it has also had a stark social influence on American life – reshaping industries, disrupting education systems and dramatically altering American behaviors. Though the shifts in American time use may seem incremental based on national averages, due to the massive scale, they represent some of the most profound in the survey’s history.