Flexible work strategies like telecommuting are a cost-effective way to attract and retain key talent. Successfully implementing remote work strategies motivates employees, reduces time wasted commuting, and saves on office expenses and operating costs.

It also makes team members significantly more productive. According to a recent survey, 77% reported greater productivity while working off-site while 30% said they accomplished more in less time.

While there have been a few recent high profile reversals to remote work policies like Yahoo requiring every employee to report back to their cubicles a few years ago, the upward trend is clear and accelerating. One component of the new flexible approach, freelancers, has grown three times faster than the overall U.S. workforce since 2014.

According to Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork, companies need to embrace remote work strategies because “the best talent will easily find new jobs with companies that are more open to remote work.”

Many companies are going beyond telecommuting and turbocharging their flexible work strategy by adding freelancers to the mix, according to the “Freelancing in America: 2017” study.

Companies aren’t just engaging freelancers for small projects or task overflow. Tech titans from Facebook to IBM are seeking freelancers for mission-critical work like product management, web development, and network engineering.

Why is this trend accelerating now? Because increasingly, freelancing is where the talent is. 57.3 million people now freelance. And it’s predicted that by 2027 the majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers.

Rocket fuel for growth

Companies are using virtual teams, including freelancers, to fuel growth. Freelancers provide more focused expertise and skills for knowledge-intensive jobs while offering flexibility to ramp up for project-based work.

“Freelancers allow us to make measured and sustainable growth. They allow us to test our appetite for a new type of work before we commit to developing that format type as a regular service offering or revenue stream.” — Jeremy Fetters, director of client services, Column Five

This growth will likely continue because technology makes it easier for companies to connect with talented people, wherever they’re located. New collaboration tools from video conferencing to project management and communication apps like Slack make virtual teams possible.

Remote teams may become the new norm because increasingly it’s how people are choosing to work. More than any other generation, nearly half (47%) of Millennials freelance.

The future-proofed workforce

Not only is freelancing where the talent is, this workforce is highly motivated to remain relevant and valuable. According to “Freelancing in America: 2017,” more than half of freelancers (55%) had updated their skills in the last six months compared to less than a third of non-freelancers.

The majority of freelancers want to freelance as a career choice. When asked whether they started freelancing more by choice or necessity, 63% said by choice—up 10 points from 2014. 50% of freelancers say they would not quit freelancing and take a traditional job with an employer—no matter how much it paid. Many value being their own boss, choosing when, where and how they work as well as the projects they take on.

“We are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” said Kasriel. “A period of rapid change in work driven by increasing automation, but we have a unique opportunity to guide the future of work and freelancers will play more of a key role than people realize.”

The future of work is here, and it includes freelancers and other flexible work strategies. Many companies have discovered that embracing this gives them a competitive advantage. They can get more productive work done by motivated team members, wherever they are, and do it with greater cost efficiency.