Flexible work used to be a “nice-to-have” benefit, but it is rapidly becoming a requirement for workers. In fact, according to a recent survey by FlexJobs(the company’s eighth annual report), 30% of workers reported leaving a job because it did not offer flexible work options.

The survey findings were not a revelation to Sara Sutton, founder and CEO of FlexJobs. “I wasn't necessarily surprised because so many of the people we help every day are in that exact situation — they're working in a job that lacks the flexible work options they need or want, so they're in search of a better way to work.”

What is flex work?

Working remotely is one type of flexible work, but that is not the only definition of this term. “We see flexible jobs that are 100% remote, partially remote, or have the option for remote work,” Sutton explains.

“We also see jobs that offer part-time schedules, flexible schedules, and alternative schedules.” In addition, the jobs could be categorized as freelance or employee jobs. Sutton says most of the jobs they list have a combination of these types of flexible arrangements, which allow people to find what works for them.

Some of the reasons people want flexible work

FlexJobs has been conducting this annual survey since 2013, and the top four reasons (in order) that people want a flexible job have been consistent:

  1. Work-life balance (75%)
  2. Family (45%)
  3. Time savings (42%)
  4. Commute stress (41%)

“The option to work remotely, at least some of the time, saves workers three of their most precious commodities: time, money, and their sanity,” explains Kate Lister, president at Global Workplace Analytics in Carlsbad, California.

“In terms of time, the average half-time remote worker saves the equivalent of 11 workdays a year, time they’d have otherwise spent in traffic.” That’s assuming a 30-minute round-trip commute, but many people travel much further.

“In terms of money, a typical half-time remote worker saves between $2,000 and $7,000 a year in just transportation, clothing, and food/beverages,” Lister says. And some workers are also able to move to a less expensive area.

“In terms of sanity, this survey and a large body of other research shows the biggest reason people want to work remotely is because it helps them better balance their work and personal lives,” she explains. It also reduces stress and helps them get more work done.

In fact, the survey reveals that 65% of workers believe they’re more productive working from home than working in a traditional office environment. Among other benefits, 70% cite fewer distractions, 72% enjoy few interruptions from colleagues, and 64% say they can avoid office politics.

There are other benefits. For example, 78% believe flexible work allows them to be healthier (eat better, exercise more), and 44% believe it improves their overall quality of life.

Population groups more likely to want flexibility

All professionals can benefit from flexible work arrangements, but Sutton says this option is especially important to some groups of people. “We work with a lot of working parents — moms and dads, caregivers of friends and family members, people with mental or physical health issues, retirees who still need or want to continue working, and people living in rural areas where the local economies are not strong.”

Personal and geographical circumstances would make it impossible for some of these people to maintain a traditional, on-site job, but flexible and remote work allow them to be active in the workforce.

How companies/employers are responding to this trend

Flexible and remote work is becoming more popular among workers. “For example, new data we've analyzed with Global Workplace Analytics shows that there has been a 159% increase in remote work in the U.S. since 2005 — and it's continuously increased every year,” Sutton says.

As a result, more companies are offering flexible work options. “It's a bit of a ‘snowball effect’ — the more people work remotely, for example, the more companies become comfortable with the concept and therefore allow more people to work remotely,” Sutton explains. “It's a cycle that supports growth.”