Working from home is really having a moment

U.S. unemployment rate hits 16-year low
U.S. unemployment rate hits 16-year low

The office is rapidly expanding beyond the cubicle.

The number of telecommuting workers has increased 115% in a decade, according to a new report from Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs.

That translates to 3.9 million workers, or almost 3% of the total U.S. workforce, working from home at least half the time in 2015, an increase from 1.8 million in 2005.

"The impact of remote work is changing; employers really need to pay attention to it and not ignore it any longer," Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs.

While more companies are offering telecommuting options, larger companies are the most likely to offer the option to workers.

In fact, it's Uncle Sam that has the largest percentage of telecommuters at 3.1%.

"The federal government has been a really nice model in terms of setting the tone on why it's a benefit."

Related: 3 reasons your boss doesn't want you to work from home ... and why she's wrong

Remote working has become more prevalent, specifically in the mortgage and real estate industry, human resources and recruiting, and accounting and finance. Each industry saw remote job listings grow more than 20% last year.

Employers in the Northeast, particularly in New England and Mid-Atlantic regions, are the most likely to offer flexible workplace options, the report found.

The report analyzed Labor Department data and defined a telecommuter as a full-time worker who worked from home at least half the time in the U.S., and does not include freelancers.

New technologies and changing family demographics are big reasons we're seeing a growing remote work force.

"The middle class norm changed from one parent working and one staying at home to two working parents being more common and growth in single-parent families are big factors driving telecommuting to save time when and where you can," said Sutton Fell.

The Great Recession also played a role.

"We saw a dramatic increase in the types of jobs that employers were hiring for that allowed telecommuting and other flexibility," said Sutton Fell.

Who's working outside the office

Telecommuters tend to be a little bit older than the average employee: half are 45 or older.

They're also more educated and earn more than non-telecommuters. The average yearly income for most telecommuters is $4,000 more than non-telecommuters, according to the report.

Remote work is gender neutral with 52% of work-at-home employees being female.

Related: IBM tells employees working at home to get back to the office

"There is still this stigma associated with an antiquated view that telecommuting is just a work-from-home mom thing or for lower level jobs or not as dedicated workers," said Sutton Fell. "This is a very professional and viable option and it's not going anywhere."

Telecommuting is most common among management positions. Professional, scientific and technical services industries have the highest percentage of telecommuters relative to their share of the workforce.

Who benefits from telecommuting

Being allowed to work outside the office is good for both workers and employers.

Working outside the office allow employees to have better work-life balance and improves their health and wellness, according to the report.

It also saves them time and money.

Telecommuting full time brings in more than $4,000 in savings each year thanks to reduced expenses on things like gas, parking and public transit costs and dry cleaning.

By not having to go into the office every day, workers gain back the equivalent of 11 days per year.

Employers also see savings from allowing flexible scheduling. Allowing a worker to telecommute half the time can save an employer more than $11,000 a year.

"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," said Sutton Fell.

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