Workers undeniably want flexible jobs, and most executives now depend on temp/flex workers. But if you want to start a company that can provide options, or if you need to find a flexible career yourself, where do you go? Which industries set the bar?

Job search and hiring platform FlexJobs has just released its latest survey examining flexible careers. The survey analyzes 50,000 companies and looks at jobs posted in the FlexJobs database between July 31, 2017 and July 31, 2018. "Flexible" means the job is a professional-level position and provides a telecommuting, flexible schedule, part-time or freelance component.

The best industries for working on your terms

Out of all job categories, sales came out as the big winner for flexible hiring. This makes sense given that sales can be done online or in person, and since many companies allow you to sell as little or as much as you want based on what you want to earn.

The other top 10 categories for flexible work are:

2. Computer and IT

3. Medical and Health

4. Customer Service

5. Education and Training

6. Account/Project Management

7. Administrative

8. Accounting and Finance

9. Marketing

10. HR and Recruiting

Most of these categories are similar in that technology makes it easy to connect with others from anywhere and easily manipulate, create and transfer data. These categories also can see many different short projects, the quantity of which might ebb and flow based on season or industry trends. For example, companies might need an extra hand during annual audits or when they're setting up a new infrastructure. Medical and Health likely earned the label as flexible because more workers are filling in care gaps as the elderly population and disease rates increase, and because current clinic/hospital systems are not capable of handling everyone as inpatient. For instance, you might need someone only to do at-home physical therapy or care for a loved one for a few days after a surgery.

"Sales, IT, and medical and health have been staples in the flexible work environment," says FlexJobs content writer Rachel Jay. "Technology plays a key role--mobile devices and widespread high-speed Internet make it much more possible for people to do work away from a traditional office. And communication platforms, such as video conferencing and online collaboration programs, help to connect remote workers and teams across miles or time zones. Being cognizant of generational changes, socioeconomic factors, increases in traffic, and competition for talented and skilled workers are all significant contributors to the reason these industries offer the most flex work options."

Companies doing flex well

As for specific companies leading flexible work and hiring, the top 10 businesses, including staffing agencies, that recruited during the survey period are

1.     UnitedHealth Group

2.     Pearson

3.     SAP

4.     Hilton

5.     BAYADA Home Health Care

6.     Aetna

7.     AFIRM

8.     Kaplan

9.     Anthem, Inc.

10.  Leidos

The kind of flexible work option people want most

The FlexJobs survey also found that

  • 81 percent most want to work from home full time
  • 70 percent want a flexible schedule
  • 46 percent want to telecommute some of the time
  • 46 percent want a part-time schedule
  • 44 percent want an alternative schedule
  • 39 percent want a freelance contract

These results are understandable taken in the context of balancing work and home life through greater cultural demands and shifts. For instance, as costs for essentials like housing go up, all these options could allow you to fill in income gaps. Similarly, a recent survey from Morning Consultant for The New York Times found that the expense of childcare was the number one reason people in America opt against having children (62 percent). Having these types of options can make it much easier to start a family and avoid these costs as you pursue a career.

But why might working from home full time and having a flexible schedule be making workers drool the most? Yes, these can address issues like those cited above. But think about this, too: Out of all the psychological needs people have, autonomy ranks pretty high. We like to be captains of our own ships, so to speak, and in the typical office, most people are forced to do what others want when others want it. There's drama over who gets the good stapler or promotion, too. Even if you're an extrovert and really thrive around other people, avoiding all that stress while being your own boss can look reeeeeeally attractive.

Ray points out that, according to the survey, well over half of workers have left or considered leaving a job because it didn't give work flexibility. And 79 percent said they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flex options.

"Companies that want to make themselves flexible and find top-tier talent should focus their efforts on meeting these needs. Formalizing flexible work options and making them available to as many workers as possible is another necessary step. [...] Companies that offer telecommuting--particularly 100 percent telecommuting--can stand to gain more loyal and productive employees, and will position themselves as a desirable workplace in a competitive job seeker market."