A report from FlexJobs finds that while remote work remains a relatively small part of the work economy, it has seen significant growth in the past decade. Employees who telecommute tend to be older and better educated than the part of the workforce that heads to the office.
With the jobs picture continuing to improve in the U.S., one factor that might be helping that cause could be the increasingly fluid definition of what represents a workplace.
According to “2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce,” a report from the placement firm FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, more workers than ever are embracing the remote way of life—and seeing some major perks from the lifestyle or employment choice.
The shift is something that’s being felt on the economy as a whole. According to an analysis of U.S. Census data, regular telecommuting more than doubled between 2005 and 2015—outpacing the rest of the workforce nearly tenfold. Among the most likely employers to rely on remote workers: the federal government and for-profit companies. Nonprofit firms were less likely to rely on telecommuting but tended to use it more than state or local governments.
The report lays much of this progress at the feet of evolving technology.
“Obviously, technological advances played a big role in making it easy to work wherever and whenever,” the report states. “It’s hard to believe, but way back in 2005, LinkedIn was in its infancy, Facebook was still gestating, and the iPhone had not yet been conceived. These days, that phone and devices like it, high-speed broadband, and cloud-based storage and software are as essential to business success as telephone PBX systems were back in the day.”
But while the remote workforce is a relatively small portion of the pie—representing 3.9 million workers, or 3 percent of the American workforce—it’s a particularly valuable portion of the workforce, especially when it comes to salary. For employees who make less than $100,000 per year, they’re likely to make $4,000 more in salary than non-telecommuting equivalents—an average of $41,705 versus $37,657. (The report defined telecommuters as full-time employees who work from home in the U.S. at least half the time. The number does not include freelance workers.)
There are also some interesting demographic differences in the kinds of people who telecommute as well. While it’s a relatively even split by gender (52 percent of women, 48 percent of men), age is a different story—half of all telecommuters are age 45 or older, according to the report, compared to 41 percent of the population as a whole. People over age 65 who are still in the workforce are nearly twice as likely to telecommute as they are to go in the office.
The report also found that more than half of all telecommuters have a bachelor’s degree or higher, while 63 percent of non-telecommuters had an associate degree or less.
In comments to CNN Money, FlexJobs CEO Sara Sutton Fell noted that the approach came with added benefits for both employers and employees. Employees save time and money by avoiding a commute that otherwise would have taken up a big chunk of their day. And employers benefit from cost savings—as much as $11,000 per year—that they wouldn’t have otherwise received.
“It’s a benefit when it comes to recruiting and retentions and offering competitive advantages with globalization and the efficiency of being a forward-looking company,” Sutton Fell told the news outlet.