Millions of people started working from home three years ago because of the pandemic. Many are still working from home due to the flexibility it gives them. Many hybrid workers have that flexibility a few days a week when they are home. According to National Bureau of Economic Research data, more than a quarter of paid full-time work days (27%) are now done from home.
This means that people who used to have to wait until after work to squeeze in a workout or enjoy some leisure activity like golf can now extend their leisure time into the afternoon and tack on extra hours of work after dark or sometime else.
A study from Stanford University has documented this shift in leisure time. Researchers Alex Finan and Nick Bloom used AI analysis for satellite images to identify 3,400 golf courses across the U.S.
They then used anonymized vehicle and cell phone GPS data to track golf course visits within the golf course area and its parking lot for between 2 and 6 hours duration between April 2019 and November 2022. They found that golf course visits increased substantially in 2022 compared to 2019, up 52% in August.
The golfing increase was powered by mid-week golfing, which rose 83% compared to 2019.
They found that the golfing increase happened throughout the days Monday through Thursday, peaking at an almost threefold increase (+278%) at 4 pm on Wednesday.
Since Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were popular in 2019, the increases in 2022 are less. Saturday is below 2019 levels, as some play has shifted to mid-week.
We've turned into a student economy," Mr. Bloom, one of the researchers, said. "You're in the library in the evenings, and in the afternoon, you're sleeping off your hangover."
When people could devote time to entertainment, fitness, and other services has long been constrained by the rigidity of a nine-to-five workday. Remote work has partly done away with that. More flexible work arrangements mean workers can shift some of their professional responsibilities to times other than 9-to-5 and take care of other things during weekdays.
The effects of this shift are being felt across the entire leisure economy. One example is from ClassPass, a platform that partners with thousands of fitness and beauty studios. It found that the most popular time for people to schedule a salon or spa treatment last year was noon; in 2019, it was 6 pm. Y7, a yoga chain, has tracked a surge in sign-ups for its 10:30 am and 4 pm weekday classes.
One general manager of a golf club described the change this way, "These were guys we used to see running to the golf course after work. Now they can comfortably get out and do their golf game instead of changing in the parking lot."
We checked with one of our clients, Silverlake "The Family Place", a combination fitness, aquatics, and family entertainment membership club. They found that they've had an uptick in weekday use between noon and 4pm and have seen more people working on their computers at the club. This validates the trend found in the golf is true for other leisure locations.
In this issue's article about 2023 attraction visitation, PGAV forecasts that attraction visitation in 2023 will be 7% higher than in 2019. The work-from-home phenomena may partially explain this.
"This is an amazing potential reversal," according to Mr. Bloom. "You can have a huge increase in productivity using leisure resources throughout the week. It's an odd, unexpected boost from post-pandemic working from home."
This research can be very positive for location-based entertainment venues. People working from home have the flexibility to visit out-of-home leisure and entertainment venues during the weekday daytime. This opens up more time when they can go out, no longer being constrained to evenings and weekends. At the same time, not only might it increase overall out-of-home venue visits, but it will help evenly distribute visits throughout the week and decrease the peak crowds on Saturday, giving visitors a better experience during peak times and increasing productivity.