More people are working from home now than ever before, but some companies have been better at providing flexible working opportunities than others, and they may not be the ones you typically associate with pajamas and home-brewed coffee.
A recent report by FlexJobs, an online resource for those seeking flexible work, found that opportunities in government and politics, engineering, project management, communications, and travel and hospitality grew on the website by over 50% between July 2015 and June 2016, more than any other career fields. According to FlexJobs, these are defined as professional-level jobs that have a telecommuting, flexible schedule, freelance, or part-time component.
"Jobs in each of these industries are well-suited to flexible work options because the roles rely heavily on remote-friendly technology—phone, email, and Internet," says Brie Reynolds, the senior career specialist at FlexJobs. She explains that companies hiring in these fields have all been utilizing flexible work options for years. "That early adoption has set the foundation that makes it easier for them to hire for flexible jobs, now that the overall job market is improving and they need the talent," Reynolds says.
Perhaps the most surprising member of the fastest-growing flexible-work category is government and politics. "Government jobs have the stigma of being traditional and not very ‘on trend,' but the federal government in particular has been a champion of telecommuting over the last few years," says Reynolds. "Federal agencies have made a big push to encourage staffers to telecommute more often, and I think we're seeing that come through in their hiring practices as well," she says.
Though working from home was a rarity up until recently, its popularity has exploded as more employees are demanding flexible working options. A 2015 Gallup Poll found that 37% of American employees had flexible working options, compared with only 9% in 1995. A 2015 survey of 2,600 professionals looking for work on FlexJobs also found that 30% of respondents would take a cut in pay in order to work from home, up from 28% in 2013. Furthermore, 24% were willing to forfeit vacation time and 18% said they would give up employer-matched retirement contributions to avoid commuting to work every day.
"Flexible work allows them to spend less time sitting in traffic and less money on gas. They have more time with their families, they're less stressed, they avoid office politics, and in many cases, they're actually more productive than when they were in the office," says Reynolds.
Reynolds adds that flexible working options also give some who are unable to come into work every day the ability to hold a job they otherwise could not, such as those with disabilities, military spouses, stay-at-home moms, caregivers, and others.
But the benefits don’t only fall on the employee side of the equation. As they demand more flexible working options, employers have begun to recognize the benefits of a more remote workforce as well.
Fast Company covered the 2015 Workplace Flexibility Study that revealed 87% of human resource professionals reported that staff working periodically from home resulted in increased employee satisfaction. It also found that seven out of 10 hiring managers were using workplace flexibility programs as a recruiting and retention tool. Among those surveyed, 29% reported spending over $40,000 to start their own flex-time program in 2014, and more than half said they would put even more money behind those initiatives this year.
"Companies with flexible workforces see reduced turnover, improved productivity, reduced real estate and operating costs, a lowered carbon footprint, and more satisfied workers," says Reynolds. However, she acknowledges that flexible work still has a negative association for many employers.
"Even though flexible work is becoming more mainstream, with 80% of companies offering it in some form, there still is this notion that flexible work options like working from home or part-time hours are only for lower-level or unskilled jobs," she says. "What we see at FlexJobs is actually the opposite, that the majority of flexible job opportunities—the legitimate ones—are well-suited for experienced career professionals."