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Creating a Winning Recipe for Flexible Work Arrangements

Overcoming challenges in winning employee support for a flexible office return.

Key points

  • Remote workers thrive, with 70-83 percent experiencing increased job satisfaction.
  • Employee buy-in matters: Less than 40 percent are satisfied with input on returning.
  • Remote work advantages include time and cost savings, improved safety, and enhanced well-being.

Imagine a chef who creates a mouth-watering feast only to discover that the guests don’t actually want the gourmet spread. This is the predicament employers find themselves in as they attempt to usher employees back into the office or into new, flexible work arrangements. The ingredients look promising, but the recipe for success remains elusive.

A recent survey by the Centre for Future Work reveals that employers are missing the mark when it comes to employee buy-in on returning to the office and embracing flexible work arrangements. Only half of the home-based workers have been consulted about returning to traditional work sites, and an even smaller percentage—less than 40 percent—are satisfied with their input in these discussions.

The Home Advantage: Unprecedented Job Satisfaction

The survey results paint a clear picture: Employees are thriving in remote work settings. Home-based workers report significantly higher levels of job satisfaction (70-83 percent) and improved well-being across 14 distinct measures. It’s like discovering a hidden talent for juggling while balancing on a unicycle—why would anyone want to give that up? Or maybe it’s just me.

Remote workers have spoken: 40 percent want to continue working from home full-time, and another 56 percent desire to do so most or some of the time. A measly 4 percent want to return to the office full-time. Employers must navigate these preferences delicately—like a tightrope walker over a pool of ravenous sharks.

The motivations for continuing home-based work are as diverse as an artist’s palette. The primary color that stands out is saving time and money on commuting (with 94 percent of remote workers listing it as a major benefit). But other shades of advantages also resonate, including better safety, less stress, and improved general well-being. In short, employees are enjoying the remote work symphony, and they’re not keen on changing the tune.

The Invisible Thread: Weakening Employment Relationships

Remote work is not without its challenges. The survey highlights that 42 percent of respondents who worked remotely during the pandemic felt less attached to their employers. This detachment is like a slow leak in a tire—it may not be immediately noticeable, but eventually, the tire will go flat. Employers must address this challenge to ensure their workforce remains connected and committed.

So, how can employers create a winning recipe for flexible work arrangements that satisfies their employees’ diverse appetites? That’s the crux of my conversations with clients about attracting employees to the office. The key ingredients are inclusive decision-making and tailored solutions:

  • Gather Input: Employers must remember that communication is a two-way street. By actively seeking employees’ input and opinions on workplace arrangements, employers can demonstrate that they value their employees’ perspectives. Think of it as building a bridge to ensure the employee’s voice reaches the other side.
  • Be Adaptable: Recognizing the uniqueness of each employee’s situation is essential. Employers should strive to create flexible work arrangements that cater to individual needs and preferences, much like a master chef who tailors a menu to the dietary needs of each guest.
  • Strengthen the Employment Relationship: Remote work may have weakened the bonds between employees and organizations, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be repaired. By fostering team-building activities, frequent check-ins, and open communication channels, employers can rekindle the connections that once thrived in the office environment.
  • Monitor and Adjust: A recipe isn’t set in stone. As situations and preferences change, employers should remain open to tweaking and adjusting the ingredients to find the perfect balance for their workforce.

Case Study: A Mid-Sized IT Company’s Inclusive Approach to Flexible Work

In the heart of Silicon Valley, a mid-sized IT company found itself struggling with employee dissatisfaction after attempting to bring its workforce back to the office without adequate consultation. Realizing their mistake after talking to me, the leadership decided to switch gears and gather input from their employees. They conducted surveys and held focus group discussions to better understand the preferences and concerns of their staff.

The result? A more inclusive and adaptable work arrangement that allowed employees to choose their preferred mode of working. This improved employee satisfaction and retention rates, leading to an increase in productivity and, ultimately, the company’s growth. The organization’s proactive approach to addressing employee concerns demonstrates the value of engaging in open dialogue and making necessary adjustments.

Case Study: A Regional Insurance Company’s Tailored Solutions

A regional insurance company based in the Midwest faced a dilemma when a considerable portion of its workforce expressed a desire to continue working from home while others were eager to return to the office. After consulting with me, the company took a thoughtful approach by creating a customized, flexible work plan that catered to each employee’s unique circumstances.

For instance, the company allowed employees with family responsibilities to work remotely, while others with a preference for in-person collaboration could return to the office. This tailored approach led to higher job satisfaction and a boost in employee engagement, ultimately enhancing the company’s overall performance.

Case Study: A Large Professional Services Firm’s Adaptive Monitoring and Adjustments

A prominent professional services firm with over 100 staff members found that their initial attempt at implementing a flexible work policy wasn’t yielding the desired results. After meeting with me, its C-suite decided to take a more adaptive approach by regularly monitoring employee feedback and making adjustments to their work arrangements as needed.

This iterative process allowed the company to fine-tune its policies and create a more accommodating work environment. As a result, employee satisfaction and well-being improved, contributing to a more engaged and productive workforce that could better serve the firm’s clients.

A Culinary Masterpiece: Crafting the Future of Work

The future of work is like a complex dish, requiring a delicate balance of flavors and textures. Employers who succeed in crafting a culinary masterpiece will enjoy a satisfied and committed workforce, while those who fail may find their employees seeking a more palatable alternative.

By incorporating employee input, adapting to individual needs, nurturing employment relationships, and continually fine-tuning their approach, employers can create a work environment that is both flexible and fulfilling. And just like a chef who receives rave reviews for their latest creation, companies who embrace this approach will undoubtedly reap the rewards of a contented and engaged team.

Ultimately, the road to success lies in listening to the very individuals who contribute to the organization’s growth and prosperity. When employers and employees work together to create a harmonious and supportive work environment, the results are bound to be as delightful as a delectable feast enjoyed by all who partake.


Tsipursky, G. (2021). Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage. Columbus, OH: Intentional Insights Press.

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Bloom, Nicholas, et al. "Does working from home work? Evidence from a Chinese experiment." The Quarterly Journal of Economics 130.1 (2015): 165-218.

Aksoy, Cevat Giray, et al. Working from home around the world. No. w30446. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2022.

Bloom, Nicholas, Ruobing Han, and James Liang. How hybrid working from home works out. No. w30292. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2022.

Engelsberger, Aurelia, et al. "Human resources management and open innovation: the role of open innovation mindset." Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources 60.1 (2022): 194-215.

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