This study uses time diaries to examine how parents’ work arrangements shaped their time use at home and work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic transformed home and work life for parents, disrupting employment and childcare. The shift to work from home offered more flexibility to manage increased care burdens, but the lack of separation between work and family also likely contributed to more challenging work environments, especially among mothers.
This study relies on the 2017–2020 American Time Use Survey and matching to estimate changes in time use among parents working from home and on site in the pandemic relative to comparable parents prior to the pandemic.
Data showed no overall increases in primary childcare time among working parents. Parents working from home during the pandemic, however, spent more time in the presence of children and supervising children, much in combination with paid work. Mothers working from home increased their supervisory parenting while working for pay more than fathers, and they more often changed their paid work schedules. The study’s main findings were robust to gendered unemployment and labor force exits.
Parents, especially mothers, working from home responded to childcare demands through multitasking and schedule changes with potential negative effects on work quality and stress. Parents working on site during the pandemic experienced smaller changes in time use.
The pandemic has generated new inequalities between those with and without the flexibility to work from home, and exacerbated gender inequalities among those working from home.