Three-minute explainer on… coffee-badging

The debate around where and how people work has taken a new, unexpected twist as office surveillance backfires for many businesses

Three-minute explainer

Frictions between those who want to work remotely and those who favour a return to the office are becoming increasingly intense. Many organisations that feel particularly strongly about office working have actually taken to mandating that their staff attend a physical site on certain days. 

Some have even resorted to monitoring employee attendance and challenging those workers who are not meeting in-office quotas. But, there are still some people who are prepared to push back or find ingenious workarounds. 

What is coffee-badging?

The term coffee-badging refers to a new trend of people showing up to a physical workspace simply to ‘tap in’ with their identity badge and perhaps grab a cup of coffee in the office kitchen. Then, having aptly demonstrated that they’ve been on-site, they leave to work the rest of the day at home.

A recent study by the video conferencing company Owl Labs found that the number of workers engaging in this behaviour was surprisingly high. In organisations with a hybrid working set-up asking employees to spend a minimum of two days in the office, 58% of people had coffee-badged at some point in the last 12 months. Although the Owl Labs study used a sample from the United States, this phenomenon is being observed on both sides of the pond

How to prevent coffee-badging

Whether you are for or against remote work, it’s hard not to see coffee-badging as an inefficiency. Employees who choose to do so are effectively working from home, but still wasting time and money commuting. It also demonstrates a deep lack of trust and perhaps even scorn for company rules. 

The best solution is a more constructive and collaborative approach to hybrid work. Rather than introducing blanket policies, progressive, forward-thinking employers should look to consult their employees on where and how they can work most effectively. 

Open communication around why leaders want staff on-site and an awareness of why workers might not always agree is crucial. Compromises are only possible with conversation. The dance and deception of coffee-badging is a waste of everyone’s energy.