How Do Long-Term Care Workers Spend Their Time? Answers from the American Time-Use Survey

Authors Ulrike Muench, PhD, RN, Matthew Jura, MS, MPH, and Joanne Spetz, PhD of the UCSF Health Workforce Research Center on Long-Term Care have just released their report, How Do Long-Term Care Workers Spend Their Time? Answers from the American Time-Use Survey. To better understand factors that might contribute to work stress, burnout, and retention among long-term care (LTC) workers, the report compares time spent by the LTC workforce with that of other health professionals (OHPs) with comparable education/skills.

Using data from the American Time Use survey (ATUS) from 2003-2014, conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the UCSF authors found that although LTC workers spent more time on leisure compared with OHPs, much of this difference was attributable to more time watching TV and less time to exercising sleep or other activities of well-being. The findings were particularly notable among unskilled workers. These results may not be surprising in light of prior reports detailing the poorer health of LTC workers relative to OHPs. LTC workers reported similar levels of work satisfaction and quality of life compared with OHPs. Of special importance to the question of burnout and job satisfaction, LTC workers more often provided eldercare to family members or friends on a regular basis.

The authors recommend that employers consider addressing the tendency toward sedentary lifestyle among LTC workers as obesity and hypertension are associated with higher costs to employers, both through greater spending on health care and lower productivity. Further, while LTC workers may be in the best position to care for aging family members, taking on this burden outside of work also may increase pressure on an already strained workforce.