- “Coffee badging” is a new trend where employees show up to the office for a short period of time, just enough to be seen, before returning home to complete their work.
- Owl Labs’ 2023 State of Hybrid Work report found that only 22% of workers want to be in the office full time, with 37% wanting hybrid work options and 41% preferring to be fully remote.
- More than half (58%) of hybrid workers are “coffee badging,” according to the same study.
As the post-pandemic era continues, employers are mandating a return to the office, and employees are responding with a unique form of pushback. The trend, known as “coffee badging,” is the latest form of employee protest, following the “quiet quitting” trend where workers did the bare minimum to get by.
Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs in Boston, explains, “Coffee badging is when employees show up to the office for enough time to have a cup of coffee, show their face and get a ‘badge swipe’ — then go home to do the rest of their work.”
His firm, which makes 360° video conferencing devices, has conducted extensive research into this trend.
According to Owl Labs’ 2023 State of Hybrid Work report, only about 1 in 5 workers (22%) want to be in the office full time, with 37% wanting hybrid work options and 41% preferring to be fully remote. The study also found that more than half (58%) of hybrid workers are “coffee badging,” while another 8% said they haven’t done it yet but would like to try it.
Weishaupt points out that people at all levels of companies and organizations are busy with their own jobs, so they don’t have time to keep tabs on everyone else’s whereabouts.
“If a coffee badger doesn’t have any in-person meetings or a desk near the boss, the person might not be missed,” he said.
He also revealed that about two-thirds of managers (64%) have ‘coffee badged’ themselves, with another 6% who want to try it.
“Less than a third of managers (30%) want to go to the office for the full day.”
Niki Jorgensen, managing director of client implementation with Insperity in Denver, told FOX Business that coffee badging began making news as the latest work trend several months ago.
“Coffee badging is simply the latest example of the challenges businesses are facing with transitioning employees back to the office after the pandemic,” she said.
She suggests that each business should do its own research into coffee badging.
Jorgensen believes that if a business finds most of its employees are coffee badging, that could reflect the need to reevaluate their organization’s culture and work-from-home policies.
“Often, but not always, coffee badging is a reflection of employee dissatisfaction with an organization’s culture or hybrid policies,” said Jorgensen.
She adds that “coffee badging can seem disrespectful or even insubordinate to business leaders who expect their employees to spend a full day in the office,” but clarifies that “it’s important to understand that the motivations for coffee badging are rarely ill-intentioned. In many cases, employees are coffee badging because they want to improve their work-life balance.”
Jorgensen suggests a few strategies for company managers to halt coffee badging among employees. These include implementing flex hours, encouraging employees to socialize with one another, and embracing open communication. She believes that coffee badging can be a symptom of overworked, burned out, and disengaged employees.
“To combat it, invite employees to speak up about their experience in the workplace and share solutions to help them balance their work and personal lives more easily,” she said.
Jorgensen also indicates that when the practice becomes too widespread among employees, it can detract from organizational culture.
“When workers only come into the office briefly and then leave, they are not spending as much time interacting face to face. Over time, this can undermine relationship-building and reduce collaboration.”
Emily Ballesteros, founder of Burnout Management, LLC, in Seattle and author of the upcoming book, “The Cure for Burnout: How to Find Balance and Reclaim Your Life” (Feb. 2024), told FOX Business that a downside to the coffee badging trend is that it creates unpredictability that can impact others.
“Trying to schedule meetings when you’re unsure of who is virtual or in-person; planning around commutes to and from the office; needing clarification on whether a meeting is virtual or in-person, etc. — all of this adds a bit more unpredictability to the workday that can cause frustration,” Ballesteros said.
To reduce unpredictability, many companies are introducing hybrid schedules.
“They have seen on surveys that their employees would like the flexibility to work from home sometimes,” she said.
“So rather than have constant flux and unpredictability around who is where, they create a schedule that meets people in the middle, such as saying that everyone works from home Monday and Friday and everyone is in the office Tuesday-Thursday,” noted Ballesteros.
She concluded by saying, “Where there is unrest, there is usually a need to be met.”
Clear Thoughts (op-ed)
The rise of “coffee badging” is a clear symptom of a deeper disconnect between employers and employees.
Our post-pandemic world has completely shifted our perspective on work culture.
Employees are no longer willing to accept the traditional 9-to-5 office grind, and they’re making their preferences known in creative ways.
The Owl Labs report shows a clear majority of workers prefer a hybrid or fully remote work model. Business leaders must adapt to this new reality or risk losing their workforce to more flexible companies.
“Coffee badging” may seem disrespectful, but it’s simply a sign of employees seeking a better work-life balance.
Instead of resisting this trend, let’s address the root cause – the need for more flexible work arrangements. Our workforce has spoken. It’s time for business leaders to listen.
Let us know what you think, please share your thoughts in the comments below.