Before jumping to the conclusion that remote workers are shirking more, it should be noted the researchers used the data to illustrate how "one hour of foregone commute time is allocated towards other activities."
"First, we find a substantial fall in time spent working; the decrease in hours worked away from home is only partially offset by an increase in working at home," writes Dam.
"Our results from the ATUS suggest that although individuals may have increased time working in the precise time-slot they used to commute, overall paid-work hours fell because of substitution toward other activities throughout the day."
The analysis did find that remote workers do spend more time on both leisure and sleeping. Younger Americans reported spending more time at social events, eating at restaurants or bars, and exercising. Older age groups allocated more time to childcare, household chores and repairs, and meal preparation.
The findings will likely add to the growing tension between CEOs and workers over what the new norm should be. While workers claim to be as productive when working from home, most business leaders don't trust their remote workers and want them back in the office. It's led to senior execs getting "productivity paranoia", which threatens the future of hybrid work, according to Microsoft.
Some employers are now raising alarm bells about "over employment", where workers are taking on two or more full-time roles. On the other hand, the number of sick days has fallen for many companies because WFH has raised the bar for what counts as being sick, as The Economist recently reported.
But these most recent findings also mean workers will likely bargain hard to retain the benefits of flexible work arrangements discovered during the pandemic. Bosses, particularly those having trouble filling vacancies, will need to consider if they plan to force workers back in the office and back to daily commuting.
"Our results show important relationships in the substitutability of time use. The findings lend credence to the various reports on employees' preferences for flexible work arrangements, given that cutting the commute enables people to spend their time on other activities, such as childcare or leisure. This added benefit of working from home – for those who want it – will be an important consideration for the future of flexible work arrangements," writes Dam.