Beginning in October 2022, the CPS included questions asking about telework or work at home for pay.
From May 2020 to September 2022, the CPS included a set of questions, including one on telework, to help gauge the effects of the coronavirus COVID‐19 pandemic on the labor market. The question asked, "At any time in the last 4 weeks, did you telework or work at home for pay because of the coronavirus pandemic?" This question was designed to capture telework or work at home that was done specifically because of the pandemic. This measure excluded people who teleworked or worked at home for reasons other than the pandemic, such as those who worked entirely from home before the pandemic’s onset. The question referenced the previous 4 weeks and was asked of all employed people.
Beginning in October 2022, the CPS includes the question, "At any time last week did you telework or work at home for pay?" The telework question references one week and was asked of all employed persons who were at work during the survey reference week. This telework question was designed to capture telework activity more broadly, that is, telework regardless of the underlying reason for that work arrangement.
Because of differences in concepts, question wording, reference periods, and who was asked the questions, estimates from the COVID-19 telework question asked from May 2020 through September 2022 are not directly comparable to the telework data from October 2022 and later.
The BLS American Time Use Survey (ATUS) and CPS each produce measures of telework or work at home, but the methods used to produce these measures differ. The ATUS and CPS produce these data using different methods of collection, ask about different reference periods, and target different populations, all of which influence the resulting estimates.
In the ATUS, interviewers administer a time diary in which people age 15 and over are asked to recall how they spent their time yesterday. Interviewers ask them to report the activities they did from 4 a.m. on the day before the interview until 4 a.m. on the day of their interview. For most activities, including work, people are asked where the activity took place. Measures of work at home are derived from these diary reports. Because of how ATUS collects these data, the survey captures incidental work at home. Someone who reported spending 5 minutes checking their work email at home is counted as working at home in ATUS estimates, as is someone who reported working 10 hours at home. Estimates produced from these diaries represent time use on one day and are averages of diaries collected throughout an entire year.
The CPS collects telework data by asking people if they teleworked or worked at home for pay during the survey reference week and, if so, how much time they spent teleworking. One person reports these data for everyone in the household. The question is asked about people who are age 16 or over, employed, and worked during the reference week. These data are presented as monthly telework rates.
ATUS data on work at home and CPS data on telework are expected to differ somewhat because of differences in the reference periods, concepts, and populations represented by the estimates. Additionally, the ways in which these surveys are designed impact the reporting of work at home.
Last Modified Date: September 27, 2023