According to a new report, a whopping 58% of hybrid workers have “coffee badged” in the past — a term used for employees who show up at a physical office in order to make an appearance, but leave soon afterwards to work the rest of the day remotely.
The term highlights the friction between flexible work schedules and those pushing for a return to the physical office.
Interestingly, the report, out from Owl Labs, found that 62% of coffee badgers were men, compared to just 38% who were women.
Wait, What Is “Coffee Badging” Anyway?
The term coffee badging refers to the practice of showing up at your physical workplace to interact with coworkers just long enough to establish that you showed up, before leaving to get your real work done from home.
The term specifically uses the idea showing up at the office, swiping your badge as proof you've been on site, and grabbing a coffee. Afterwards, workers will immediately ditch the office and return home.
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It's a practice that can appeal to hybrid workers who need or wish to show up to work for a few days out of the week, but find they need or vastly prefer working remotely. And, for workplaces that require a set two or three full days out of the week are spent in the office, coffee badging is more than skirting the rules.
No matter whether you support or condemn the idea of coffee badging, there's no denying that it's not an ideal situation: It's essentially working from home but still devoting time and money towards the commute to and from your office building.
Who's Coffee Badging?
It only makes sense that coffee badging appeals the most to hybrid workers, since they're regularly commuting anyway, yet have the option to work from home. Of these, the new report from Owl Labs, State of Hybrid Work 2023, finds that 62% are men, while 38% are women.
The report doesn't get into the reasons why men might be more likely to coffee badge than women, but it's tough to see what the answer could be aside from gendered expectations for what office workers are allowed to get away with. This would align with previous studies of office behavior, like the fact that men have more often felt comfortable attempting to negotiate higher salaries than women have.
Millennials are more likely than other generations to coffee badge, perhaps because older generations aren't as frequently working from home or have different workplace expectations, while the younger Gen Z isn't as well established in the workforce.
Percentages of office workers who coffee badge, by generation. Image source: Owl Labs.
Can We Move Past Coffee Badging?
Many CEOs are hoping for a full return to a five-day in-office work week. Meanwhile, we're still seeing huge amounts of workers remain fully remote or adapting a hybrid work balance. One thing we can all agree on? Coffee badging doesn't seem worth the effort.
Flexible work policies offer the best of both worlds, allowing workers that find they do their best work fully remote to remain happy while also accommodating those who need to work around others all five days of the week. But rewarding people for showing up and drinking a cup of coffee doesn't need to be in the mix at all.
Ultimately, coffee badging is a product of work policies that don't accommodate workers to the degree that they feel works best for them, and your views on how to end the practice might hinge on whether you feel the employer or the employee has or should have the upper hand in their relationship.
Ironically, coffee itself could offer a solution of sorts: According to one study, free hot coffee was the single perk most likely to lure workers back to the office — for good.