As the widening gap between jobs and workers qualified to fill them is undermining productivity and growth at U.S. companies of all sizes, adopting flexible work models can help employers attract talent, while improving employee engagement and productivity and boosting the U.S. economy, according to a study conducted by the Centre of Economics and Business Research (Cebr) with support from Citrix Systems.

The report’s findings are based on data from an online survey of 2,502 U.S. knowledge workers conducted in July. The aim of the study was to determine the potential value to the U.S. economy of a move toward a more flexible working culture by extrapolating the survey findings for each of the demographic groups represented in the sample to the U.S. knowledge worker population. The analysis showed that the total potential U.S. economic gains from a flexible working culture could amount to $2.36 trillion in gross value added (GVA) per annum, with 88% of the total potential boost to GVA coming from individuals who are currently unemployed or economically inactive rejoining the labor market, and the remainder contributed by productivity improvements among individuals currently in work.

The survey found that 69% of respondents who are currently unemployed or economically inactive because they are, for example, retired, full-time homemakers, or caregivers, indicated that they would be encouraged to start working if given the opportunity to work flexibly. The results also showed that 65% of respondents who reported that they currently work part-time said they would be inclined to work more hours if they could work remotely.

In addition, the findings indicated that if provided with the opportunity, 95% of the knowledge workers polled who are currently employed said they would like to work from home 2.4 days per week, on average. Moreover, between 60% and 70% of respondents said they would be willing to work from other locations, including local coffee shops and shared workspaces, one to 1.3 days per week, on average.

The survey also found that 86% of respondents who said they currently have the option to “work from anywhere” take advantage of this opportunity. Among current remote workers, 73% of respondents reported that flexible working improves their personal well-being and ability to balance work with outside activities, 69% said it improves their job satisfaction level, and 60% indicated that it facilitates their professional development (60%). Broken down by demographic group, working remotely was found to be most popular with respondents aged 16-55 who are currently working and have dependent children, with 92% of these respondents indicating they would use flexible working if the option was available.

When asked about the potential productivity benefits of working from home or from other remote locations, large majorities of all workers surveyed said they believe virtual/remote working would enable them to save money (72%), reduce their stress levels (70%), allow them to work at a pace or at hours that suit them (72%), make them more productive (71%), help them achieve better work/life balance (74%), enable them to get more work done as they would spend less time commuting (68%), and help them concentrate better because they would have fewer distractions (66%).