Listening and The Power of Team-Level Agreements

Gallup recently found that only 12% of hybrid workers benefit from hybrid policies decided by their individual team.

Crucially — they also found that this small group is also the most engaged.

It seems that when employees are given the trust and autonomy to make their own decisions — and be really heard by their team members — they become more satisfied as a result.

As Head of People and Partnerships at Kadence, my job is all about helping the people around me flourish at work.

In this piece I’ll guide you through what we’ve learned at Kadence about the power of listening to your teammates — and how it keeps us organized and focused on outcomes.

And check out this conversation I had with the wonderful Brian Elliott about what it means to listen and support teams.

Communication: The Foundation of Hybrid Work

At Kadence, our mission is helping companies to find the right rhythm of work for their unique teams.

Our employees work between San Francisco and Amsterdam, and every single one of us has the option to choose how and where we get our work done.

The distribution of our team, while being a great illustration of what it means to be fully hybrid, has shown us loud and clear the importance of strong communication in hybrid teams. It can be tricky to coordinate employees who are spread over the world, let alone keep them happy and fulfilled at work. Good communication is the foundation.

Our technology is built precisely for this. By providing our employees with tools to help manage their schedules, coordinate with colleagues, and make sure they’re in the right place at the right time, we ensure everyone has access to a base layer of communication. Schedule management is about more than just logistics — it’s about sharing the when, where and what of work with your teammates, so you can coordinate and communicate with them better.

These tools have helped us become a better company, where our distributed teams feel connected despite the distances.

But we’ve also found that none of this would make sense without first ensuring we have the first part of communication in place – listening.

The Importance of Listening

Experts in the field of work agree that keeping open communication channels and practicing active listening are one of two key factors in employee retention and satisfaction.

Listening is powerful.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? The feeling of being listened to is one of the most validating things you can experience, whether in your personal or professional life.

When it comes to navigating the ins and outs of hybrid work, listening is all about understanding the unique preferences and needs of each individual employee.

Those preferences extend to the frequency of office-based work, team meetings, company-wide gatherings and other specific hybrid work routines.

At Kadence, we hold regular feedback sessions on company and team levels to ensure our employees have the feeling they are actively being heard, and give them a platform to air any concerns or developments in their navigation of flexible work.

One of our most successful team-level agreements is that employees set their own agendas for 1:1s with managers. Those moments of discussion shouldn’t be managers “checking up” on their teammates but rather employees feeling comfortable raising any number of topics that have been on their mind.

Through encouraging active listening to each other, we hope to head towards a rhythm of work where everyone in the company feels fully heard and understood.

Documenting Discussions: TLAs

In the journey towards staying connected and coordinated as a distributed team — we’ve understood that alignment is even more powerful when it’s done on the team level. And when it’s put down in writing!

TLAs – or “team-level agreements” – have been a game changer for making sure we document and keep to the discussions we have about where, when and how we do work. Just because our team is spread out over various countries, it doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice on alignment and connection.

Team-level agreements leave the finer details of hybrid work entirely up to our individual teams. Through open discussion and constant iteration, teams can decide for themselves:

  • Their core working hours
  • The team rituals
  • Their balance of remote and in-person work
  • Their main communication channels and work tools

We believe that sweeping hybrid company policies aren’t useful when it comes to ensuring everyone is on the same page about how and where to do work. Everyone just ends up on their ”own” page!

By giving our teams the power and autonomy to choose a work system that makes most sense for them and as part of the whole culture — we hope to see our people flourish and grow more than ever.

And by encouraging them to get their team values and rituals down as tangible agreements, we ensure the work we put towards listening to each other translates to concrete actions.

At Kadence, we’re constantly editing the blueprint out for ourselves. We see hybrid and flexible work as living things — not simple company policies established once and for all.

For that reason, we’ve found communication to be crucial: especially when trying to make sense of a distributed team.

We encourage as much discussion and feedback as possible, and our hope with that is to continue learning together about the challenges we will inevitably face as a hybrid organization.

Only that way can we continue to optimize the experience here — while bringing out the best in our people, and ultimately our business.

To find out more, check out some of our other available resources or book a demo with the team to see how Kadence can transform your workplace.

Effective Team Building for a Hybrid Workforce

Hybrid workforces present unique conundrums – the contrast between those in the office and those not can increase the difficulties of engaging remote employees. For team building, this often results in the haves and have-nots. Beyond having great audio-visual equipment, that can make group meetings sound and look close to their in-person counterparts, there are a few things leaders can consider to create team-building activities that engage and unite both constituencies.

Here are three concepts spectrums to consider when planning out events for your team that may or may not be 100% in person. Making sure you’re getting the balance right across these spectrums will ensure a rich and inclusive environment for your hybrid team-building activities.

Coordinated vs. asynchronous

With people in disparate locations, it’s hard, and sometimes impossible, to do something simultaneously and have it be fun for everyone. Speaking as someone who has worked 11 time zones away from their colleagues, Zoom pizza-making classes just aren’t that fun at 5 am.

Another factor with asynchronous events is that getting people to act silly or be vulnerable can be more challenging because you have to save the proof and share it across time zones. This is why Snapchat was so successful; people are much more willing to share things if their video disappears in 24 hours. Thus asynchronous isn’t great for emotional team-building events, but it can be good for light-hearted competition or driving repeatable 1:1 engagements. That being said, live events are the gold standard for shared experiences. Setting up opportunities for group experiences is a core foundation of many team-building plans.

Asynchronous Ideas

  • Visual bake sale. The entire team bakes something off of one recipe, competing to make the most visually appealing version. Those in the office can taste test, but the winner is for the presentation. Points are also awarded for the biggest failures!
  • Scavenger hunts designed for teams that are mixed between home and office ensure people are mingling despite the location. This is also a great virtual-only option
  • Coffee Donut in Slack, an often noted application over the pandemic, but it’s much better when there’s a chance for a real, barista-made coffee for those coming into the office at least sporadically

Concurrent ideas

  • Magicians and other entertainers who have pivoted their shows to virtual are now offering combo performances, where they perform live in the office but professionally recorded so those at home can also experience it.
  • Some classes can work in a hybrid situation, such as cocktail making or a virtual painting class. It’s not quite the same for people at home, but it does allow everyone to enjoy their output.
  • Meyers-Briggs and other personality or work style assessments. While the inputting of the survey is alone time, understanding how different styles work together via a facilitator works just as well in person and virtual.

Collaborative vs. Competitive 

Lots of team building, particularly the “fun” stuff, is either competitive or collaborative. To decide which option is suitable for your team, it’s good to ascertain what problem you are solving. If your team is suffering from disenchantment and a loss of purpose – competitive! Harness the bonding power of “us versus them!” But a collaborative event is more beneficial if your team is suffering from too much-siloed work and losing the chance to problem-solve together.


  • Screenshot Bingo: Challenge your team to screenshot or photograph humorous office moments off of their custom Bingo cards, like twin outfits in the office, someone’s cat appearing on screen, or the ubiquitous “you’re on mute” moment in the team call.
  • Murder mystery (and other traditional games): Anything that can be played over a more extended time period, allowing people to dip in and out, is great for hybrid teams. Fun prizes for winners are a must!


  • Escape rooms: make sure they are built on the idea of collaboration; if everyone is solving the same puzzle alone, it doesn’t give much bonding opportunity.

The Delight Factor

And one bonus! The delight factor! Delight is a way of saying how much of this activity is a special treat. Inviting a famous cocktail mixologist to share their craft using unique ingredients versus everyone grabbing a glass of their favorite beverage and doing a basic happy hour over Zoom are opposites on the delight scale. In normal times, both have their benefits, and not everything can be over the top. But this is an unprecedented moment in workplace rapport and aiming for the delight factor is an excellent way to welcome colleagues back to “normal” office life.

Bonding with colleagues is an important part of having a trusting, happy, productive team. Leaders who find ways to connect their remote and in-person teams, giving everyone ample opportunity to form deeper bonds with their colleagues, will find they have a more engaged, more effective workforce.