We have all heard the axiom ‘the Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones; it ended because of advances in technology, such as brass tools becoming more effective than stones’. The same applies to the modern definitions of ‘work’ and ‘workplace’. The age of work being a place you travel to each day could also be changing based on the fast, reliable, and ubiquitous internet access, real time video conference, screen sharing, and other advanced collaboration capabilities, as well as changes in talent demographics, supply and demand of jobs and candidates, and generational changes in attitudes towards managing workers.

In 2013, one million more workers were eligible to telecommute in the public sector, according to the Status of Telework in the Federal Government report by the US Government.[1] Though not all companies align with this trend. Yahoo, for example, bucked the trend with disastrous results, when Marissa Mayer ordered all workers back to the office with a companywide policy abolishing remote worker arrangements. And other companies are wary of losing control, says John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger Gray & Christmas, an outplacement and executive coaching firm, “A lot of companies are afraid to let their workers work from home some of the time or all of the time because they’re afraid they’ll lose control.” [2]

Some hiring managers find themselves in a war for talent, and feel compelled to offer flexible work arrangements to attract the best and brightest. The benefits to companies willing to offer this flexibility can be significant, including worker productivity, access to geographically dispersed talent, lower real estate and facilities costs, reduced commuting stress and carbon footprint, among others.

Though these same hiring managers are finding that working remotely is not applicable for all jobs types or all employees. Like many things, your mileage may vary. Certain personality profiles and worker types are more appropriate to flexible work arrangements. Some workers may not be able to thrive in the solitude of a home-based work environment.

The most progressive companies have established formal remote worker guidelines and a comprehensive support program. Dell, Deloitte, and UnitedHealth Group are among the leaders in the category, according to jobs website FlexJob [3]. Where companies are not allowing workers to work outside the office, they are providing flexible work hours.

Like prehistoric humans toiling away with rocks, previous generations were only able to support monolithic office or factory workplaces, and thus attracting and retaining talented workforces was a matter of locality and managers understood that productivity required presence at your desk. With advances in technology and an increased competitive landscape, later generations are learning that work is an outcome, not necessarily a location anymore. Gen X and Millennials in particular, value work/life balance, community and the ability to stay connected, tweet, meet-up anytime, across virtual locations.

Remote worker programs redefine a paradigm of work-life balance to merging the two to effectively be there to accomplish your company’s goals, your personal goals, while being there for your family and social needs as well.

[1] https://www.telework.gov/reports-studies/reports-to-congress/2013reporttocongress.pdf

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/technology/yahoo-orders-home-workers-back-to-the-office.html

[3] https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/270585