According to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey, working Americans spent far less time commuting last year 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.
On nonholiday, weekdays in 2021, employed Americans aged 15 and older averaged eight hours and twenty-one minutes of sleep, two hours and forty-four minutes of relaxing and leisure time, and one hour and nineteen minutes of time spent on household activities – the highest averages since 2011 data collection.
As per US News, due to the pandemic in 2020, the survey was halted, and no yearly estimates were produced for that year. Nonetheless, data derived from the 2021 survey indicates that American workers spent a quarter less time on work-related travel in 2021 than they did in 2019, falling from an average of 34 minutes per day to just under 26 minutes per day – a record low. As a result of the pandemic, only 56.7% of employed individuals traveled for work, down from over 70% before the pandemic.
In 2021, working Americans appeared to travel significantly less for various activities. On nonholiday weekdays, the total time spent traveling for work, recreation, and other obligations decreased by approximately 20 minutes to slightly over an hour per day.
In 2021, working Americans spent six hours and 41 minutes on average working, one hour and five minutes eating and drinking or traveling to do so, twenty-three minutes socializing, and three hours on categories including shopping, family and nonfamily care, personal grooming, exercise, and more. These averages include the approximately 17% of employed Americans who may not work on any given weekday, such as shift workers, and those employed in industries that schedule on holidays and weekends.
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented death toll and long-term physical and mental health effects, but it also had a profound social impact on American life, reshaping industries, disrupting education systems, and radically altering American behaviors. Despite the fact that the shifts in American time use may appear incremental based on national averages, their massive scale makes them among the most significant in the survey’s history.