There are many benefits to working remotely that are fantastic but not particularly unexpected. It makes sense, for example, that working from home can be easier on the environment. And that having fewer workers in a traditional office can lower overhead costs for employers. We’ve flipped the script, though, and rounded up a few surprising facts about remote work.
We’ve visited the topic before in a broader post looking at stats about remote work. This time, we’ve gone through our previous list and added new data to compile an updated list, with a focus on stats about remote work that are genuinely surprising.
Some of the fresh data in the list below comes from a newly released report, the 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce. This is a comprehensive and exclusive analysis that’s the result of a partnership between our sister site FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, which offers independent research and services to help organizations and communities navigate flexibility and emerging workplace issues.
Read on for seven surprising facts about remote work:
1. On average, remote workers are in their mid-40s and older.
There’s a popular conception among some in the job marketplace that millennials are driving employee demands for work flexibility, including virtual jobs. But new data from the FlexJobs and Global Workforce Analytics research shows “half of telecommuters are 45 years of age or older, compared to just 41% of the overall workforce.” Like their younger counterparts, seasoned workers (along with parents and other caregivers) value work flexibility.
2. Remote workers tend to be more educated.
To be sure, there are many at-home jobs that don’t require a college degree. However, the research from the Global Workforce Analytics report indicates that, on average, telecommuters are more highly educated. About 53% of virtual workers have at least an undergraduate degree; the rate for non-telecommuters is 37%.
3. Remote employees are more engaged.
The belief that remote workers are disengaged from their colleagues and from day-to-day functions of their employer has been largely debunked. Fact is, studies by Gallup and others show that telecommuting is linked to increased employee engagement, particularly if remote employees are given the right training and technological tools to help them stay connected.
4. Remote work is the fastest-growing commute option.
Workers in more than half of the nation’s major metropolitan areas list telecommuting as their top “commute choice,” edging out public transportation, the Global Workplace Analytics data shows. As a mode of commuting, working remotely has grown faster than any other means of accessing work and the workplace, the report concluded.
5. Working remotely boosts worker productivity.
Close physical proximity to a supervisor and work colleagues is no guarantee that the work is actually getting done. To the contrary, office distractions often slow down the work pace. A separate FlexJobs survey from 2016 found that only 7% of those surveyed felt they could be at their most productive while working in the office.
6. The median salary for remote workers is higher than that of in-office workers.
Evidence has been building for some time now that working from home doesn’t necessarily mean taking a pay cut. That evidence was reinforced by fresh data from FlexJobs/Global Workforce Analytics research data showing that, on average, the annual income for most telecommuters is $4,000 more than the income of traditional workers. Job seekers who are convinced that telecommuting jobs really pay less may want to reassess their career prospects.
7. Remote work keeps older people in the workforce longer.
Many workers are pushing to retire earlier in order to enjoy a second-act career while they’re relatively young; remote work can facilitate such aspirations. And it’s not just the retirees among older workers who are taking advantage of remote options. In some instances, a virtual job can enable an employer to hold on to a valued team member—for example, if that older worker has a spouse who’s already retired and is ready to move to their dream location. In those instances, remote work works because geography isn’t an issue.