Time use diaries and the Covid-19 crisis

Prompted by the recent Covid-19 crisis and a corresponding upsurge in interest in time use diary design and data, the CTUR team have been working on a range of projects relevant for researching patterns of time use during the current social restrictions and understanding patterns of social distancing behaviour related to risk of infection:

1)  An online time-use diary survey (fielded in late May-June and early August in the UK) using the same instrument and market research panel as a 2016 time-use survey baseline. A demonstration video for the click-and-drag diary instrument (CaDDI) is provided below (mp4 file).

2)  A comparative analysis of UK 2016 and May/June 2020 data using this survey and focussing on social contact, location and activity to indicate risk exposure time prior to the pandemic and during lockdown.  A preprint is currently available on SocArXiv of a paper analysing the change in patterns of daily behaviour and associated risks of transmission between the baseline 2016 survey and the May-June 2020 wave: ‘A new perspective from time use research on the effects of lockdown on COVID-19 behavioral infection risk’ https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/fcguj

We present findings from the first two waves of an innovative, population-representative, UK time-use diary survey conducted both pre- and mid-lockdown, using an online diary instrument that proved both reliable and quick-to-field. Combining diary information on activity, location, and co-presence to estimate infection risks associated with daily behavior, we show clear changes in such behavior related to infection risk between the pre and mid-lockdown periods:  a substantial reduction of time spent in those behaviors with the highest levels of risk, accompanied by an equivalent increase in low-risk behavior.  Because, in general, a populations’ time use changes relatively slowly, the behavioral changes revealed may be interpreted directly as a consequence of the UK COVID-19 ‘lockdown’ regulations.  Subsequent waves will reveal the behavioral consequences of future changes in regulation.

3)  An overview of alternative time-use diary designs, focussing on the online click-and-drag diary instrument used in the data collection referred to in (1) above (for which we are also currently designing a webapp).  The resulting article is now published in the Journal of Time Use Research: ‘Time use diary design for our times - an overview, presenting a ‘drag-and-drop’ diary instrument for online application’ https://doi.org/10.32797/jtur-2020-1

The recent global pandemic, involving restrictions on movement, social distancing and the displacement of many work activities to the home, has created an upsurge of interest in changes in the distribution and sequencing of our daily activities. Time use diary data is recognised as the leading source of evidence on this topic. The purpose of this paper is to provide a timely overview of the current state-of-the-art in respect of the designs of time use surveys with a view to online/smartphone deployment. It has three parts: firstly, we briefly summarise the main reasons for using diaries to collect time use information (as opposed to survey questions), and we sketch out the long tradition of time-use research from which these designs emerged. We then outline the main methods currently deployed to collect time use data, with the focus on online and smartphone app instruments. Finally, we present a detailed example of a specific kind of online diary design, the Click-and-Drag Diary Instrument (CaDDI), that may be of particular interest in respect of the sudden demand for new data on time use as it is both user-friendly to complete and capable of timely adaptation and deployment.

Download here: Time use diary design for our times - an overview, presenting a ‘Click-and-drag’ diary instrument for online application

Below: CaDDI demonstration video:  

Download here: CaDDI demonstration video (mp4 file)