The global job market is changing. As technology continues to reshape the 21st-century workplace, a variety of challenges and opportunities emerge. The threat of automation remains a valid concern considering the estimated 60 percent of all global occupations that can be at least 30 percent automated based on today’s technologies, according to a study from McKinsey Global Institute.

MGI calculates that currently-demonstrated automation technology ultimately could impact 50 percent of the world’s economy – displacing 1.2 billion employees and $14.6 trillion in income in the next two decades.

At the same time, technology is also improving many labor markets, as digital talent platforms and telecommuting opportunities expand the ways employers and workers can connect. The ability to work from home has allowed a variety of workers the ability to follow career paths previously unavailable to them because of physical location, disability or even family structure.

Technology also adds ease to independent work opportunities. While self-employment is anything but a new concept, since the most recent economic recovery period, 20-30 percent of the working-age population in the European Union and the United States is now engaged in independent work, creating what is known as the gig economy. Cloud-based platforms such as Uber, Upwork and Etsy have grown rapidly based on the ease and efficiency that they connect independent workers with a large customer base.

People choose to work from home for a variety of reasons. Three-quarters of those surveyed by FlexJobs said they choose to work remotely because they face fewer distractions. A similar number of respondents said they would be more willing to stay with a current employer if they could work flexible hours, and 86 percent said working remotely eases stress levels. Is there any wonder why working from home continues to grow in prominence?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 26 million Americans – 16 percent of the entire workforce – worked remotely at least sometimes in 2018. The number who work from home the majority of each week grew from 3.3 percent in 2000 to 5.3 percent in 2018. At the same time, the number of U.S.-based companies that offer remote work increased by 40 percent between 2013 and 2018 – the increase is 140-percent higher than 2005 totals. The flexibility of working from home is so attractive to 21st-century workers that 34 percent of U.S. workers surveyed told Owl Labs they would take a pay cut in order to work remotely.

Providing flexible working options like telecommuting can benefit employers just as much as workers. While some still fear remote workers will be less productive than in a traditional workplace, recent studies provide evidence that working from home can actually increase productivity by more than 20 percent among many types of workers, while at the same time reducing their feelings of stress.

Likewise, 80 percent of surveyed employees who telecommute say they have a better work-life balance as a result. According to the State of Work Productivity Report, two-thirds of full-time employees say a remote work schedule increases productivity, and two-thirds of managers report increases in overall productivity among their remote workers.

“For employers telecommuting can limit absences, increase productivity, and save money,” then-CEO at Quantum Networks Ari Zoldan told Monster. “This is most common in the tech sphere because tech companies have the infrastructure to maintain remote workers. With telecommuting the idea of the office space is changing but many are saying that it is for the better.”

Thanks to web-based tools like productivity software and virtual phone systems that allow anyone with an internet connection the same access as an office worker, telecommuting is now available to far more than tech-industry employees. The fact of the matter is, working from home creates happier and healthier employees and contractors, and happier workers get more work done.

Whether they want to telecommute to their jobs so they can be home with an ailing loved one, avoid rush-hour traffic, work for a company on another continent or travel the world while freelancing from their laptops and mobile devices, remote workers enjoy a variety of benefits. One reason they can all share, however, is the health benefits that correspond with working from a home office.

Interested in starting a home-based business or asking your employer if you can work remotely? Be sure to consider the following health benefits of working from home:

1. Less Stress

Remote work reduces stress, both stress associated with workplace disruptions and stress from traveling to and from work. An astounding 82 percent of remote workers told PGi that working from home helped lower their stress levels.

According to data from the U.S Census Bureau, Americans average about 25 minutes in their cars traveling both to and from work, and more than 1 million full-time workers commute at least 90 minutes total or 50 miles each way. The average U.K. commuter spends between 60 and 80 minutes travelling to and from work, and more than half of them told the Royal Society for Public Health that their stress levels increased because of their commutes. That’s a lot of traffic-related stress.

Is it any surprise, then, that 73 percent of people surveyed by FlexJobs were interested in more flexible work options have round-trip commutes of one hour or more, and 71 percent admitted they would like to work from home to reduce commute-related stress? Not only does reducing or eliminating commute times contribute to reduced stress levels, but working from home can reduce other financial stressors, including saving money on transportation, childcare and meals.

2. Less Illness

Anyone who has ever worked in a large office building can attest that going to work can feel like jumping into a giant petri dish. Any illness that one employee brings in soon will be distributed among countless others.

As a matter of fact, as many as 20 percent of Americans will contract the flu between October and March of each year. Many companies provide paid sick days but are quick to penalize any workers who use them, while other employees simply can’t afford to lose a day’s pay, so they reluctantly go to work when they are obviously contagious.

Telecommuting simply is a healthier way to work. Telecommuters can avoid the cesspool of germs that is found in many work environments, and they can still work while experiencing minor illnesses without losing productivity or infecting colleagues. Healthier

3. Healthier Lifestyles

Employers who are interested in hiring and retaining high-performing workers have plenty of reasons to include a work-from-home option. Employees who telecommute are 50 percent less likely to quit, and they report greater job satisfaction. Much of this satisfaction might be derived from healthier lifestyle choices that telecommuting offers them.

Job flexibility gives workers the time needed to visit the gym, shop for and prepare healthier foods and wind down for a good night’s sleep. Rather than spending eight hours a day at a desk, they can take advantage of a few spare minutes throughout the day to take a brisk walk or complete a set of crunches to get their hearts moving.

According to another study, telecommuters are 45 percent more likely to enjoy better sleep, 42 percent more likely to eat healthier and 35 percent more likely to exercise. These healthier lifestyle choices lead to less illness and absenteeism, gains in productivity and improved job satisfaction, which in turn equates to greater retention rates and profits.

4. Lowered Depression

Working from home fosters improved mental health. While telecommuting, workers can avoid the stress associated with office politics. They can also adjust their own work environments with lighting and temperature settings that promote their personal well-beings.

According to a study led by Truven Health Analytics, simply having the option to work remotely for as little as a few hours a month can reduce workers’ risk for depression. The study, published in the American Journal off Health Promotion, evaluated workers telecommuting for different intervals each month and compared them to those who did no remote work.

The subjects who did not telecommute were at greater risk for obesity, physical inactivity, alcohol abuse and tobacco use compared to those who telecommuted as little as 8 hours a month. Whether based on their healthier lifestyle choices or the knowledge of increased flexibility, the remote workers were significantly less likely to experience depression compared to the control group.

Working from home is no longer relegated to recent grads in the tech industry. In fact, according to information from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the typical telecommuter is now a 45 years or older college grad working for a company of more than 100 employees and earning an annual salary of $58,000.  Telecommuters come from industries ranging from military to media to farming to health and anything in between.

Considering the health benefits offered to workers and the billions in savings to employers, there’s never been a better time to explore if remote work is a viable solution for you.