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  How men and women use their time
How men and women use their time
Among those employed, men worked about an hour longer-8 hours versus 7.1 hours.
 

Working women are spending about an hour more doing housework and taking care of family members each day than working men do, according to a new report released by the Department of Labor. At the same time, men are putting in more hours at work.

The recently released "American Time Use Survey", based on U.S. Census Bureau interviews with 21,000 people on their activities during one 24-hour period last year, is the government's first comprehensive study revealing how Americans spend their time. The survey analyzes what we do with our time: working, caring for others, caring for ourselves, caring our homes, shopping, relaxing, and keeping in touch with others.

What does a typical weekday look like? The chart below shows the average hours per day in selected primary activities for workers age 18 or over. The single thing we all do the most is sleep, according to the research. In that category, which also tracks other personal care activities, women outpaced men by half an hour per day.

In percentage terms, the areas where working women and men differ the most are housework and taking care of family members. On average, about 84 percent of women and 63 percent of men spent time on housework. In terms of hours logged, working women do almost twice the amount of childcare as working men-44 minutes versus 23 minutes. These working women also spent significantly more time, almost 50 percent, shopping.

The study seems to show that dual income families continue to follow the traditional husband-wife roles, with the wife continuing to take greater responsibility for the maternal role - spending about an hour and 20 minutes more each day maintaining the home and family, and about an hour less at work. "The results of the study are hardly surprising," says Lena Bottos, senior compensation analyst at Salary.com. "Women have made headway over the years in becoming equals in the workplace, however they are still primarily responsible for traditional housewife duties."

Some mothers have made the interesting observation that having children may help them become more effective at the office because having a child forces you to learn how to get things done quickly and efficiently. "It's about multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is an unavoidable part of the equation when you are a mother," says Lisa Callahan, a working mother and employee at a New England business services company. Now that she has a baby, she spends slightly fewer hours at work but makes the most of the time she is there. "When you've washed the dishes, set the table, done the laundry, put 'Barney' on, cooked dinner, and changed diapers all while making sure the two-year old isn't jumping off the coffee table, a day at work is nothing," says Callahan. She is convinced that because of what she has learned dealing with parenthood, her "productivity on the job is way up from before."

There may be equal shares of industriousness between the sexes. Among those employed, men worked about an hour longer-8 hours versus 7.1 hours. Some of this is due to women's higher likelihood of working part-time. Though even when that is taken into consideration, the difference is still 7 percent-or 34 minutes. These differences do add up. Over the course of a year, working men are working several 40-hour weeks more than women. Are men getting the short end of the stick by having to work more hours? Not really, says Bill Coleman, Senior Vice President of Compensation at Salary.com. "Working women are, on average, getting the equivalent of an extra 3-5 weeks off from work-but it's certainly no vacation." Coleman points out, that the extra time off is "spent managing the family and the household. It's like a second job."

Most men we talked with shrugged off the difference between the genders in time spent working. Kevin McCarthy, a dad who works more than eight-hours a day, says, "I think it all evens out in the end and it really just matters if you're getting your work done." Although this sentiment is shared by many, Bill Coleman reminds us that "7.1 hours per day is about 12% less than 8 hours per day. This difference in time at work is reflected in the average pay for women versus men."

In many business situations, the quality of work is paramount. McCarthy also shares an opinion common among white collar managers, "If the quality of work is the same, I don't care what the difference is in quantity." Although not all jobs can afford to have workers delivering varying amounts of work, it is clear that the American employers who focus on more flexible hours for working parents will be able to better attract that part of the workforce.

The average hours per day spent working-8.0 for men, 7.1 for women-took some by surprise. What about those 10-hour days they have been putting in, they reasoned? In fact, while studies from the Bureau of Labor Statistics acknowledge that the rolls of workers putting in many more hours a day have increased, so too has the number of workers putting in fewer hours. This has left the averages generally unchanged.

How do you feel about these differences in time use? Do they reflect how you spend your time versus others of the same or opposite gender in your office? Are the differences fair? Salary.com wants to know. Please tell us how you feel by writing to feedback@salary.com.

If you wish to view the complete survey results, please visit them here.

-By Tim Driver, SVP & GM, Consumer Products, Salary.com

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