On the Money

Say goodbye to 9-5 and the commute, more and more jobs are becoming ‘flexible’

Work perks
Work perks

Slowly but surely, the traditional 9am to 5pm job—and the long commute it sometimes entails—is becoming a thing of the past. More companies are offering work perks like flexible schedules and the ability to work from home.

It's a benefit more companies are starting to offer to keep employees happy. One survey conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of Ernst and Young found the top priorities for job seekers, after competitive pay and benefits, were flexibility and not having to work excessive overtime.

The most common flexible arrangements include telecommuting, part-time, and flexible hours – where an employee can set some or all of their hours. Today, 80 percent of all U.S. companies now offer flexible work arrangements, according to one survey. Meanwhile, telecommuting specifically has grown 103 percent in the last ten years.

Flexibility not only has benefits for the employee, but also the employer.

"There are many benefits, starting with costs, such as real estate and overhead, as well as recruiting," Sara Sutton Fell, Founder and CEO of FlexJobs, told CNBC's "On the Money" in an interview. Her company is an online resource for job hunters searching for flexible jobs and currently has approximately 34,000 listings.

Paul Viant | Caiaimage | Getty Images

As the unemployment rate drops, it's becoming harder and harder for companies to find and recruit talent. By offering flexibility, businesses can widen their applicant pool to candidates in other parts of the country, or even the world.

Flex time used to be something parents sought to spend time with their families, but it's not just for mommies and daddies anymore. Fell acknowledged working mothers are the most visible group in wanting this perk, but she said it's a misconception they are the only ones.

"We talked to working moms and dads, as well as people with health issues, or people care-taking people with health issues, people living in rural or economically depressed economies, military spouses, people who want to travel, freelancers and certainly millennials," said Sutton Fell.

While having a flexible schedule or working from home may sound like a great gig, there can be downsides—especially if a company doesn't formally implement flexibility, instead offering what Fell called a "casual flex" perk.

"It can breed competition, and distrust amongst managers [and] other employees," said Sutton Fell.

For a flexible arrangement to be successful, she said workers need to take responsibility in creating an environment that separates work from their personal life and "not letting them creep into each other."

And, Sutton Fell noted proactive communication and good management are imperative.

But the convenience may come at a price. Should job seekers expect to take a pay cut when they seek jobs with flexible arrangements?

"On average we don't see any big difference between salary or benefits for flexible workers and on-site workers," said Sutton Fell.

She calls it a "win-win" for both the employer and the employee. Job candidates can search and apply to more jobs that what might be available in their immediate area, especially if they are in a rural town with less opportunity, and companies now have a wider pool of candidates to find their perfect hire.

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