Flexible work arrangements and schedules are a hot topic these days, and if you're looking to be a leader in 2016, you need to factor this into your 2016 gameplan. So says author and personal branding expert Ali B. Zagat.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Zagat for Firebrand Group's latest Ebook, 20.16 Big Ideas for 2016. In it, we asked a number of our favorite award-winning marketing experts, authors, and other thought leaders--in addition to some of our own team of digital strategy and branding experts--to recommend one "Big Idea" that companies can take advantage of to get ahead in 2016. You can download the entire Ebook here.

In addition to being a longtime friend, Zagat is my co-author on Getting to Like: How to Boost Your Personal and Professional Brand to Expand Opportunities, Grow Your Business, and Achieve Financial Success, out this May from Career Press. Her big idea for companies in 2016 is to invest in flexible work arrangements and schedules. Here's some of our conversation:

I know your next book, Getting to Like, will deal with how workers can build their own personal brands. Should companies be concerned that workers will use flexibility to slack off or spend their time on personal branding?

There's always the chance that could happen, but I think companies need to trust their employees and remember why they hired them in the first place. If someone's been working with you for a while, you probably have a sense of their commitment and sense of responsibility-that's not going to change just because their schedule does.

If anything, I think offering more flexibility would make people feel even more accountable and increase company loyalty. Creating a flexible schedule shows that your company values your contribution and wants to work with you. I wouldn't want anyone at my company to regret placing their trust in me, and my work would reflect that.

What are your thoughts on Marissa Mayer famously cutting down on flexibility at Yahoo? Are companies who follow suit heading in the wrong direction?

I think that there are some times when being in the same physical location with your co-workers can be beneficial. However, canceling an entire remote working policy seems shortsighted. What if some of your best employees are also ones who, for any number of reasons, cannot be in the office 5 days a week?

People like to feel valued and know that their concerns and specific situations are respected. This change completely disregards individual's needs. I understand worrying about losing some of the benefits of in-person collaboration, but if some of your employees end up leaving the company over this, you've just completely eliminated the contributions they were going to make.

Is there more than just a gut feel that flexible work arrangements help bring on the right kind of employees? Is there data to back up the assertion?

A number of studies suggest that flexible work arrangements increase employee productivity and satisfaction. Harvard Business Review has covered this; another article on the study specifically calls out Mayer's decision.

Not having to commute can save you time and money and reduce stress, as long as you also set up clear guidelines with your employer. Finally, working from home and other flexible arrangements can also help people balance work and family responsibilities.

How can flexible work arrangements help attract the right kind of employees?

All companies, no matter the industry, want smart, talented, responsible employees who do great work. As technology advances, the entire marketplace is moving towards telecommuting, video conferences, and other methods of increasing flexibility that are attractive to employees.

The companies who are proactive at offering these options will have an advantage over businesses that only work along a standard M-F/9-6 work model, because the most talented employees (and the ones who know their worth) will have the most options available to them-and will be looking at schedule flexibility as an important factor.

Looking for more from Zagat's colleagues in the leadership and digital marketing world? Access the entire Ebook here. And here's wishing you plenty of success at using flexible work arrangements and schedules to attract and retain top talent in the year ahead.