The Rise of ‘Coffee Badging’: Navigating the Return to Office Dilemma United Kingdom (UK) |

As the corporate landscape grapples with the post-pandemic transition back to the office, a peculiar phenomenon has emerged – ‘coffee badging.’ This subtle act of navigating the return to office mandates offers employees a clever workaround to the traditional 9-to-5 grind, and the trend is gaining traction. In a recent study by Owl Labs, a notable 58% of hybrid workers have embraced the art of coffee badging, leaving many to wonder: What is it, and should you consider joining the movement?

Understanding Coffee Badging: A Morning Appearance with an Afternoon Escape

Coffee badging entails employees making a brief appearance in the office during the morning hours, only to gracefully exit by the afternoon. This strategic move allows workers to fulfill their obligation to show face in the office while retaining the flexibility they have come to cherish during the remote work era. According to Owl Labs’ CEO, Frank Weishaupt, even corporate leaders engage in coffee badging, leveraging it as a means to sustain a flexible schedule, a quality highly valued by today’s workforce.

The Driving Forces Behind Coffee Badging

Far from being a mere loophole, coffee badging serves legitimate purposes for productivity and personal well-being. Weishaupt’s own routine exemplifies this, as he kickstarts his workday at home, strategically avoids traffic with a mid-day commute, and spends the remainder of his day in the office. Notably, the trend proves particularly beneficial for parents, with one working mom highlighting how it facilitates childcare responsibilities, allowing her to pick up her son from daycare and complete her work at home.

Beyond the personal advantages, there are significant financial benefits to coffee badging. Owl Labs’ report reveals that working from the office incurs an average cost of £51, significantly higher than the £15 associated with working from home. The breakdown includes expenses like parking, breakfast/coffee, lunch, and commute. By coffee badging, employees effectively cut these costs in half, presenting a substantial financial incentive.

The Larger Workplace Dynamics: Employers vs. Employees

The push for a return to the office from employers is met with mixed sentiments from employees. While businesses often argue that the return is crucial for productivity and organizational culture, employees find satisfaction in remote work, enjoying reduced commuting times, fewer meetings, and greater control over their work hours. The clash of these perspectives has given rise to the ‘coffee badging’ strategy, a somewhat cynical yet pragmatic approach to fulfill office mandates while maintaining personal productivity and satisfaction.

However, this begs the question: Why the insistence on a return to the office? If the motivation is productivity, evidence suggests that the return might not yield the desired results and could even lead to a decrease in overall workforce productivity. Similarly, claims about preserving organizational culture may be a form of self-deception, as strong cultures contributing to success are rare.

Navigating the Return to Office with Consideration

Employers urging a return to the office need to reflect on the motivations behind this push. If productivity or culture is the goal, careful consideration is required. Instead of mandates, a more thoughtful approach involves understanding what attracts employees back to the office and offering tangible incentives. Without compelling reasons, employers risk creating a disgruntled workforce, potentially resorting to tactics like ‘coffee badging’ or, worse, losing valuable employees to competitors with more considerate approaches.

In conclusion, the ‘coffee badging’ trend encapsulates the nuanced dynamics between employers and employees in the evolving landscape of work. Striking a balance between organizational needs and employee preferences is paramount for a successful transition back to the office, fostering a workplace environment that values both productivity and individual well-being.


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