Life is messy. If we want our best and brightest in the workforce, we need to accept that they have complex lives. We need to be flexible when it comes to the realities of balancing career and family. Being flexible at work doesn’t just benefit people trying to balance their outside lives with work. An extensive body of research demonstrates the business benefits of flexible working. Yet despite this overwhelming evidence, access to flexible work and careers is not widespread. Flexible work is still regarded as an add-on, something we do for mothers for a few months when they are back from parental leave. But in the face of rapid changes to the way we work, organizations need to move beyond just having policies for flexible working or making ad-hoc adjustments for certain individuals. Companies need to fundamentally rethink the way they design work and jobs. The World Economic Forum predicts that we are on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution. Technological, socioeconomic and demographic shifts are transforming the way we work, demanding flexibility in the way individuals, teams and organizations work. We all have different things happening in our lives at different times. Not just caring for young kids, but other family members, community roles, study and volunteering. And all of these parts of our identities bring with them different skill sets. In today’s workforce, fewer people identify with the stereotype of the ideal worker – a full-time, fully committed employee without personal or family commitments that impact on availability. There are a few factors driving the demand for increased flexibility. Globalization is one. The development of a 24/7 marketplace and the rapid expansion of the services economy are also having a transformational effect on the workplace, requiring organizations to think creatively about how they can best organize jobs and work to respond to an increasingly diverse and demanding customer base. Similarly, technology is driving – and enabling – greater flexibility. It is dramatically reshaping our workplaces, blurring the boundaries between work and home and diversifying where, when and how employees work. Advances in mobile, internet and cloud technologies, the rapid development of computing power, and the digital connection between multiple objects have all driven workplace innovations such as remote working, telecommuting, co-working spaces, video/teleconferencing, and virtual teams and collaboration. So the future of work demands new approaches to work design – but have workplaces risen to the challenge? The evidence suggests we have yet to grasp this opportunity to be more innovative. While some employers are making flexible work more available, there is still a high prevalence of bolted-on temporary arrangements. These arrangements are seen as the exception to the rule, with the full-time, “face-time”, long hours “ideal worker” still the model to which everyone is expected to adhere. Many people make assumptions about flexible workers, including that they’re not interested in training and development, aren’t committed to the organization, or don’t have any career aspirations. We need to explore and challenge these biases. There are good international examples of successful work redesign that have involved the input of a team of employees. For example, a UK bakery sat down with their bakers and came up with a flexible system of two to three baking shifts a day to maintain a steady supply of fresh bread. The team agreed to rotate their hours each week so no team member permanently worked a shift that did not suit. After the change was made, bakery sales increased by more than 65% in the first year and employee satisfaction in the bakery has risen 10% since the change to 93%. So work redesign is not only doable, it can deliver business benefits, although it does require a completely new approach. By changing our thinking and focusing on the team and the organization as a whole, rather than the individual, we have the opportunity to create more adaptable and sustainable workplaces.