Britons spent less time on DIY and exercise than during first coronavirus lockdown

Britain’s first coronavirus lockdown brought greater equality to family households as men took on more chores and childcare – but it appears they have slipped back into old habits since restrictions were lifted.

Lockdown habits including lie-ins and late-night TV binges faded away as rules were eased in summer – and women were left to do the majority of housework again, according to government analysis revealed yesterday.

Men who had shared the chores and childcare began to leave it to women again, while millions stopped sleeping in during the morning, watching TV all night, and spending the days working in the garden or fixing the house.

Gardening and DIY have dropped from 39 minutes a day during the first lockdown to the 28 minutes in autumn. 

But the culture of working from home is becoming more entrenched, taking up an average of 73 minutes a day in September and October. That compares to 55 minutes in the initial lockdown, and just 15 minutes five years ago.

The report from the Office for National Statistics also found that people are still spending marginally less time on personal grooming and meals than before the crisis – perhaps reflecting that they are not going out as much. 

An ONS report on people's daily activities found that many of the habits forged in the first national lockdown have lingered

An ONS report on people's daily activities found that many of the habits forged in the first national lockdown have lingered

An ONS report on people’s daily activities found that many of the habits forged in the first national lockdown have lingered

Entertainment: This graph shows how social activities such as spending time with friends and family increased in September

Entertainment: This graph shows how social activities such as spending time with friends and family increased in September

Entertainment: This graph shows how social activities such as spending time with friends and family increased in September

From June, people started going out again, revived their social lives, and many went back to their offices and workplaces. However, the spike in sleep that was seen in the spring has been reversed.

Britons had been spending 18 minutes more a day asleep or resting in March and April, when the average was nine hours and 11 minutes. But by September-October the figure had dropped back to eight hours and 53 minutes.

Gardening and DIY rose 143 per cent in the first lockdown to 39 minutes, having been just 16 minutes in the reference year of 2014-2015. And the figure remained higher in the more recent period, at 28 minutes.

Time spent on entertainment, such as watching TV or streaming, saw a sharp increase in the spring. Although the trend partly subsided by the autumn and people were spending more time socialising, it has not entirely fallen off.

Eating, drinking and personal grooming was less dominant in the March lockdown, falling from the previous levels of 146 minutes to 133 minutes. It went back up to 138 minutes in September-October – still not quite at normal. 

Childcare: Parents spent more time working in September and October and less on unpaid childcare and household work

Childcare: Parents spent more time working in September and October and less on unpaid childcare and household work

Childcare: Parents spent more time working in September and October and less on unpaid childcare and household work

There is also evidence that people are trying to be more active during the pandemic. An average of 23 minutes a day was spent on keeping fit in the spring, compared to 19 minutes in 2014-15. That rose to 25 minutes in autumn.

The report said: ‘Between March to April 2020 and September to October 2020 we have socialised more, slept less, and reverted to older patterns, such as women doing 99 per cent more unpaid childcare than men.’

ONS surveys asked how people spent their time from from late March to the end of April, the first month of lockdown, and September 5 to October 11, a period before second wave restrictions and lockdown began to bite.

They found that men spent on average just under an hour and 20 minutes on household chores in September and October – 18 minutes less than during the spring lockdown.

Women continued to do a similar, and greater, amount – two hours and 44 minutes – both during and after lockdown, the ONS said. 

Gender gap: The amount of time women spent on paid and unpaid work was still more than men in September and October

Gender gap: The amount of time women spent on paid and unpaid work was still more than men in September and October

Gender gap: The amount of time women spent on paid and unpaid work was still more than men in September and October

While a high proportion of men were working from home during the spring, many spent more time looking after their children. The difference between time spend on household work between men and women dropped to little more than an hour, 67.1 minutes.

However by September women were doing nine minutes less childcare a day than in March and April, while men were doing 10.5 minutes less.

Overall, the report said, after lockdown eased men were doing 80.6 minutes less work in the home, including unpaid childcare, than women.

Time spent on leisure activities typically enjoyed at home, such as streaming TV, reading and playing computer games, fell by the end of the summer.

By September and October, people were watching or streaming 26 minutes less than during the spring, a total of two hours and 28 minutes

Working from home: After lockdown, those on the highest incomes switched to working from their house more

Working from home: After lockdown, those on the highest incomes switched to working from their house more

Working from home: After lockdown, those on the highest incomes switched to working from their house more

The report said: ‘During those early months of the pandemic, when cafés, pubs and restaurants and entertainment venues were closed, people were doing things such as watching TV, Blu-ray or DVDs or watching streaming services.

‘By September to October 2020, we were watching or streaming 26 minutes less, a total of 2 hours and 28 minutes.’

It added: ‘In March to April 2020 the amount of time on any average day that people put into gardening and DIY had increased by 143 per cent, from 16 minutes in 2015 to 39 minutes.

‘But by September to October 2020, possibly having completed those longstanding chores, it had dropped to 28 minutes.’

During the spring lockdown, people spent on average just six minutes a day socialising with friends, family, neighbours or colleagues. This went up to 34 per cent by the end of the summer. 

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