The Rise of Flexible Working

by Sara Sutton Fell

It’s undeniable — flexible work options are now offered by employers, sought after by job seekers and utilized by employees. When it comes to flexible work — telecommuting, flexible schedules, professional part-time work or freelancing — there are several things businesses should know about the rise of flexible work, and predictions for 2017 and beyond.

The big picture of just how far work flexibility has come is more clearly understood when comparing today’s participation in flexible work options with that of 10 years ago.

In the U.S. in 2007, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 9 percent of employed people worked from home occasionally. Today, it’s 38 percent. The BLS also reported in 2007 that 7 percent of workers had freelanced; that number is now 34 percent. And in 2007, the BLS found that 25 percent of workers in the U.S. had flexible schedules. Today? 64 percent say their employers will accommodate flexible work schedules. Additionally, the vast majority of companies in the U.S. — 80 percent — currently offer flexible work arrangements of one kind or another.

Do Businesses Benefit?

Aside from offering employees better work-life balance, how do businesses benefit from offering flexible work? Fifty-eight percent of U.S. companies report increased profits from flexible work. And there is a host of related benefits. These include improved productivity, reduced turnover and absenteeism, a more diverse candidate pool and workforce, improved operational continuity during emergencies, and a lessened environmental impact.

Where Are These Flexible Jobs?

FlexJobs’ data in 2016 showed that these 10 categories — in this order — had the most flexible job openings over the course of the year: medical & health, customer service, administrative, sales, computer & IT, education & training, accounting & finance, project management, software development, and data entry. And over the last 10 years, these categories have remained fairly consistent, offering a large number of flexible work options.

Biggest Trends in Flexible Work to Watch in 2017

Reduced and Flexible Work Hours: Sixty-three percent of workers say they expect the standard eight-hour workday will be obsolete.

The Gig Economy: Among people who currently hold a “traditional” job, more than half think they’ll be out on their own within five years.

Flexible Work Legislation: 1 Million for Work Flexibility is tracking the rise in legislation related to flexible work, in the U.S. and abroad. Cities, states and countries (including New Zealand, Germany, the United Kingdom, Vermont, New Hampshire and San Francisco) are enacting laws that give workers the right to request flexible work options, and protect flexible workers from related discrimination.

Flexible work is clearly on the rise. And, while most companies offer flexible work options, the smartest employers are designing work flexibility programs that align with business goals, tracking results and ROI, and making the most of this new way of working.


Most Popular Flexible Work Options

Every year for the past five years, FlexJobs has surveyed thousands of job seekers to find out why work flexibility is important to them and what they’re looking for. In 2016, when asked to choose which types of flexibility they’re most interested in, survey respondents said:

  1. Telecommuting (86 percent)
  2. Flexible schedule (73 percent)
  3. Partial telecommuting (49 percent)
  4. Part-time (48 percent)
  5. Alternative schedule (48 percent)
  6. Freelance (44 percent)

Most Popular Flexible Career Fields

These are the top 10 career fields selected by FlexJobs members when filling out their resume profiles on the site in 2016. Employers, take note — these fields are in high demand by professionals seeking work flexibility:

  1. Data Entry
  2. Administrative
  3. Writing
  4. Editing
  5. Customer Service
  6. Project Management
  7. Computer & IT
  8. Education & Training
  9. Account Management
  10. Marketing

Remote Job Categories on the Rise

An analysis of more than 100,000 job listings in the 50-plus job categories in FlexJobs’ database identified five of the job categories where the number of remote job postings has increased significantly (20 percent or more) from January to December 2016.

  • Project Management
  • Accounting & Finance
  • Computer & IT
  • HR & Recruiting
  • Research

Sara Sutton Fell is CEO and founder of FlexJobs, a leading online service for professionals seeking telecommuting, flexible schedule, part-time and freelance jobs, with flexible job listings in more than 50 career categories and opportunities ranging from entry-level to executive and freelance to full-time. 

Fell has also launched two additional partner sites, and 1 Million for Work Flexibility, to help provide education and awareness about the viability and benefits of remote working and work flexibility. Sutton Fell is also the creator of The TRaD Works Conference, dedicated to helping companies leverage the benefits of telecommuting, remote and distributed teams.

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