The holidays, and the whole winter season really, offer constant reminders about the benefits of work flexibility. When life takes an unexpected turn, work flexibility helps us balance our regular obligations with whatever’s being thrown at us.

Just recently, for example, I was able to navigate my son’s two unexpected snow days (living in Dallas, this is quite the unusual event!) during the big Ice Storm, and a dead car battery. Either of these events would have required using vacation or sick time from a traditional job. But because my job is super flexible, I was able to handle both while keeping up my workload. On those days, I molded my work schedule around life’s twists and turns and didn’t have to take any time off.

With that in mind, there are so many unexpected events that require us to choose between work and our personal obligations. Here are five ways work flexibility helps during life’s unexpected moments.

Flexible schedules: Because life and work don’t happen at different times.

Sure, typical work hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., but life doesn’t know that. Kids get sick, people have accidents, women give birth, and weather turns for the worse any time in pleases. Flexible work doesn’t expect you to ignore these facts of life. Instead, it gives you a chance to manage them well.

Telecommuting: Because a lot of work can get done from any location.

Sure, the office can be a great place for collaboration and teamwork, but is it truly necessary to get work done? For the majority of working professionals, the answer is no. 50 percent of the U.S. workforce hold jobs that are compatible with telecommuting. So if you need to travel across the country for the birth of your niece, flexible work gives you the option to telecommute.

Alternative schedules: Because caregiving happens 24 hours a day.

When a family member or friend falls ill, breaks a bone, or has some sort of recurring condition, it’s hard to tell them you can only care for them at night and on the weekends. Work flexibility lets friends and families come together and care for one another. If several siblings want to care for an ill parent, being able to work alternative schedules helps them divide up the responsibilities so they can better balance being a caregiver and a professional.

Freelancing and temporary work: Because you need to work when you can, and stop when you can’t.

So many situations involve unexpected change during otherwise predictable circumstances: Military deployments, chronic illness, physical and mental disabilities, a spouse’s job transfers. All of these situations happen during otherwise normal, routine lives, and make holding a traditional 9-5 job incredibly difficult. Freelancing allows people to take control of their careers by working project-oriented or temporary jobs when and for how long they’re able.

Flexible work policies: Because bad weather happens everywhere!

Over the last couple weeks, we’ve had reminder after reminder of how flexible work options help during inclement weather. Companies who plan ahead with specific flexible work policies will be far more prepared to preserve the continuity of business operations. If your company doesn’t have specific plans in place so that all employees are aware of their options to work from home, use flexible schedules, or work alternative hours, talk to your boss about getting something in place.

Though I’ve talked how work flexibility helps during life’s unexpected moments, in truth, all of life is unpredictable. Flexible work options help people (and companies!) always be prepared for the unexpected, which in turn lets them worry less and enjoy life more, no matter what might come their way.

photo credit: thinkstockphotos.com