Woman drinking coffee at desk
Hybrid Work

Coffee badging: all you need to know about this trend


April 2, 2024


April 2, 2024

Imagine walking into your office, greeted by a coffee smell, and seeing some team members chatting near the machine. But soon, the workplace quiets down. Everyone’s headed home to work after a brief caffeine fix. This is coffee badging: a quick office visit before tackling things remotely. 

For you, HR managers, this could mean facing an unfamiliar challenge and opportunity. It’s essential to understand why this pattern is catching on and how it affects work environment dynamics, productivity, and company culture. In a way, coffee badging reflects a broader shift towards flexibility in professional settings, balancing in-office presence and remote work benefits. 

But here’s the tricky part: keeping the team feeling like a team, even if the building is often empty. How do we keep everyone connected and working together when they’re not in the same space? Let’s dive into what coffee badging means for your business and how to make the most of it.

What is coffee badging?

Definition of coffee badging

Coffee badging is essentially a response to return-to-office mandates, where employees comply with the requirement to be physically on-site but seek to maintain the flexibility they’ve enjoyed. They make brief appearances at the office, often just for a morning coffee, which symbolically represents their attendance. After that, they go home to continue (or sometimes start) their workday. This trend highlights a gap and arrives as a compromise between employer expectations for presence at work and employee desires for autonomy.

Coffee badging latest statistics

Statistics on coffee badging show that it’s growing in popularity, with 58%1 of hybrid workers adopting this practice, reflecting a broader desire for flexibility. An additional 8%1 are curious about giving it a try, underscoring the trend’s potential for even wider adoption. 

The gender split, with more men than women coffee badging, alongside a strong generational lean towards Millennials, indicates a diverse yet significant embrace of this approach across the workforce. 

This data also confirms that traditional office expectations are changing in favor of more flexible work routines as a result of more autonomous organizations.

👉 Are you wondering how the RTO movement is going? Check out our article about the latest return-to-office statistics!

people drinking coffee
Colleagues enjoying coffee

Why are more employees adopting this trend?

The core link between coffee badging and RTO policies 

Why are more people choosing to “coffee badge”? It’s simple: many of them find they get more done from their kitchen table or home office than they do from their official workspaces. But, as companies call employees back on-site, HR managers are stuck trying to blend what bosses demand with what works best for team members. While businesses require their staff to be in the office, most workers want to keep the flexibility to work from wherever they want, which leads to coffee badges. That is people’s way of showing up without giving up the work-from-home perks they’ve grown to love.

A solution to save money while meeting the company’s requirements 

Coffee badging is becoming a smart move for people looking to reduce their daily work expenses. According to the Owl Lab’s report1, working from the office can cost a US-based employee $51 a day, covering commuting, meals, and care for dependents (family members). 

By limiting their physical presence, coffee badgers cut down on these costs. Commute days are reduced, meals are cooked at home, and childcare fees can be lowered by shortening daycare hours. Overall, coffee badging aligns with company expectations for in-office presence and eases employee professional expenses.

A search for visibility and acknowledgment

Coffee badging speaks to a deeper need among workers: the desire for visibility and acknowledgment in the workplace. Making occasional appearances at the office keeps people active, reminds managers and colleagues of their contributions, and builds the social bonds that make collaborative workplaces effective. Even in a world dominated by remote work, it’s important to be seen and recognized. It boosts employee morale and motivation and leads to increased opportunities for career advancement and professional growth.

A new way to be even more flexible at work

Working when you want is the next frontier of hybrid, and coffee badging is leading the change. You get the best of both worlds: flexibility and physical presence. It’s a clever workaround that lets employees customize their workday to fit their preferences and productivity peaks. Workers are empowering themselves to do their jobs when and where they choose, whether that’s from home, in a coffee shop, or during strategic office hours. It’s a great way to accommodate diverse working styles and individual commitments. Your team members then feel more in control of their work-life balance and lifestyle in general, not feeling the pressure and demand to always be at the office.

👋 Learn more about flexitime and discover many examples of flexibility at work!

How can coffee badging impact your business?

It reduces the time for employees to be productive and get work done

Coffee badging changes how and when work gets done at your company. Employees who aren’t physically present in the office may find it harder to focus and handle complex projects because of this practice. Maintaining a steady flow of productivity when team members are only on-site for a short time can be difficult. A shift like this challenges not only project completion and progress but also collaboration opportunities that arise when you’re in the same space. It can impact both the immediate outputs and long-term goals of your business, as well as overall efficiency and effectiveness.

It can negatively impact your corporate culture

Any vibrant corporate culture is built on a sense of community and shared values. Building strong work relationships and team bonding isn’t just about short chats during coffee breaks. Without regular, deep, in-person interactions, team members may feel less connected to each other and the company. This disconnect can make it hard to foster a collaborative and supportive workplace environment, causing a weakened perception of belonging and loyalty. A vibrant corporate culture depends on employees spending time together and having meaningful interactions. 

It creates a gap between employees and the company

People who engage in coffee badging are trying to balance their need for more flexibility with their company’s expectations. There can be a disconnect between what workers want and what their employers mandate. While it may seem like a win-win, your team members can feel they’re the ones who have to compromise and find subterfuge to meet their bosses’ requirements. This may hurt employee morale. Having to engage in coffee badging and put aside their true work preferences can lead to frustration, disengagement, and dissatisfaction.

🤝Discover more about the importance of fostering workplace connection to create a strong bond between you, your employees, and the company!

colleagues discussing
Colleagues socialising over coffee

Why coffee badging can also be positive for your employees and business?

Coffee badging can be a means to socialize

By coffee badging, you ensure your presence in the office and interact with others. As remote work becomes more common, these quick physical visits help employees reconnect face-to-face with colleagues. It’s this social aspect that enhances team cohesion and keeps the personal connections that build a positive collaborative culture. These moments of socialization also preserve the human element. They allow coworkers to remain close even when working mostly remotely.

Employees might see it as a flexible way of working and performing as efficiently

Employees might also view coffee badging as a sign of flexibility in the workplace, enabling them to customize their workdays as they want. It acknowledges that efficiency isn’t just about fixed locations. It allows workers to align their job schedules with their productivity peaks, focus on deep work without office distractions, and manage their personal commitments better. With this degree of adaptability, coffee badging leads to a more motivated and productive workforce, demonstrating how it can benefit individuals and organizations.

Coffee badging is not so negative if it’s not used for the wrong reasons

If you look at it constructively, coffee badging isn’t inherently bad. It depends on what motivates your employees to use it. When workers use this practice to escape negative aspects like poor management or unhealthy working conditions, it could be a sign of deeper organizational problems, not just a need for flexibility. When used to maintain a balance between remote working and in-office presence, coffee badging demonstrates a thoughtful approach to modern work. By framing it positively, it emphasizes mutual respect and understanding between staff and administration, aiming for an equilibrium that supports both.

🙌 Read our article about the benefits of working in the office vs. at home and learn how to design an attractive workspace for your team members!

What can you do to avoid and minimize coffee badging?

Listen to your employees and try to meet their needs

If you want to reduce coffee badging, you have to listen to your employees and address their concerns. A good place to start is by understanding how often they feel productive on-site versus at home and identifying barriers to more frequent office attendance. In other words, why do they coffee badge, and what can make the office more attractive to stay there all day? Engaging in open dialogues allows you to uncover specific reasons behind their choices, such as the commute, work-life balance, or quiet workspace requirements. Adapting the work environment and policies to suit their needs will help minimize coffee badging. By being proactive, you show that you value their feedback, and you can develop tailored solutions that make your team members want to work from the office more often.

Find a good ratio between WFH and WFO that works for everyone

Coffee badging is mainly a ripple effect of the introduction of RTO mandates. So, to create a hybrid work environment that suits everyone’s needs, you must strike the right balance between working from home (WFH) and working from the office (WFO). You must find a ratio that supports productivity, collaboration, and well-being. 

Research suggests that the ideal equilibrium between remote flexibility and in-office engagement is working from home 2 days a week (or on-site). But it depends on your company’s operational rhythm and your employees’ expectations, whether five-day work weeks or condensed four-day weeks. Understanding what your team members seek from their workdays - whether camaraderie, connection, or motivation - is crucial to ensuring they return home energized.

Make your workplace more attractive than your home office

A great office is one that offers something that a home desk doesn’t. You should design agile spaces that accommodate a variety of purposes, like quiet areas for focused work, collaborative zones for teamwork, and relaxing spots for breaks. Make sure there is plenty of natural light and ergonomic furniture. Use technology to manage space better so employees can easily book desks or meeting rooms. Getting to know your staff’s needs and preferences is key. Making the office a place workers want to be, not just a location they have to be, is possible if you keep it flexible, diverse, and centered on well-being.

Plan on-site social events more often

When you plan more social events on-site, your workplace turns into a lively hub of interaction that employees look forward to being part of. They help break up the routine, enhance stronger relationships among colleagues, and foster a sense of community and belonging. Whether it’s a casual get-together, team-building activities, or celebration, social moments contribute to a healthy workplace culture. By encouraging these interactions, the office can become a more attractive place to work. 

👉 Looking for some gathering ideas? Check out this article that shares 17 creative company event suggestions! 

Employees socialising in the office
Employees socialising in the office

Regularly ask your workforce for feedback 

Making the office more attractive will help you reduce coffee badging. To do so, you must regularly get feedback from your staff to keep a dynamic and responsive work environment. It empowers employees, makes them feel valued, and fosters a positive workplace. You can use communication channels like one-on-ones with managers, anonymous suggestion boxes where people write comments without fear of reprisal, or team surveys. These methods allow workers to speak openly and honestly, ensuring their voices are heard and taken into consideration. If you get feedback, use it to figure out what’s working and what needs improvement, whether it’s the workspace layout, remote work balance, or how you share information. 

Coffee badging is reshaping how we view workplace flexibility and attendance. It’s a compromise between remote work preferences and office mandates. This practice is popular with people who want control over their schedules and locations or wish to minimize work-related expenses. However, this trend may impact businesses by lowering in-office productivity and challenging the corporate culture. It can also lead to a compromise to reduce the gap between employee expectations and company requirements. HR managers can mitigate coffee badging by listening to workers’ desires, balancing remote and on-site work, organizing social events, and seeking regular feedback. 

At deskbird, our goal is to help you manage your hybrid workspace efficiently while improving employee experience. Our features are built to make the transition between remote and on-site days smooth and enjoyable for your team members and to give you clear insights into your office use. Curious to know more about it? Start a free trial of the deskbird app and discover how we bridge the gap between office spaces, companies, and employees in a modern and user-friendly way!

1 State of hybrid work 2023, Owl Labs.

Coffee badging: all you need to know about this trend

Paulyne Sombret

Paulyne is a highly respected expert in hybrid work. She's known for her writing on sustainability in the hybrid office, flexible work models, and employee experience. With a strong background in content and SEO, her work explores the exciting trends and latest news in the world of work.

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