Gone are the days when husbands went to the office, wives stayed home to care for the household and retirement came with a comfortable pension. Women now make up nearly 50 percent of the workforce. Eighty-two percent of American children live in households where both parents work, and 1 in 5 workers in the U.S. is responsible for elder care. By 2020, people 55 and over are expected to make up 25 percent of the workforce, both wanting and needing to continue working well past retirement age.

These demographics require a shift in how work is organized, but not just to accommodate caregiving and homelife responsibilities. Work-life balance is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to the modern workforce.

Business advantages

Economics is another piece of that puzzle. Adopting a flexible approach to work is a business imperative for operating cost reduction, improved employee retention, emergency preparedness and increased productivity.

"Seventy-seven percent of Millennials say that flexible work hours would make the workplace more productive for people their age."

Seventy-seven percent of Millennials (slated to be the largest generation in the workforce by 2020) say that flexible work hours would make the workplace more productive for people their age. And a Stanford University study found that staffers working from home are 13 percent more productive and 50 percent less likely to quit than their in-office colleagues, with a cost savings of $1,900 per employee per year.

On a broader scale, research firm Global Workplace Analytics suggests that by expanding telecommuting to just halftime for everyone who could and want to do so, the national savings would be more than $700 billion a year.

No one-size-fits-all

That said, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to rethinking work. Flexibility comes in many different forms, including alternative scheduling, condensed workweeks, job-sharing, part-time work, telecommuting some or all of the time and freelancing. Some jobs and some workers are better suited to one type of flex than another, so companies should develop flexible work policies most appropriate for them and their staff.

That’s the beauty of the modern “office:” technology gives us the freedom to shape the work environment to fit individual needs and work styles. Work flexibility helps both companies and professionals embrace the workforce of the future.