'Coffee badging': The new workplace trend to get around hybrid policies

'Workers aren't afraid to walk away from jobs that don't afford them the level of flexibility they expect'

'Coffee badging': The new workplace trend to get around hybrid policies

Amid a massive return-to-office push from executives around the world, employees have discovered a way to get around these mandates in an emerging behaviour research is calling "coffee badging."

The phrase was coined by collaborative tech company Owl Labs, which described the practice as "the act of going into the office to 'show face' for a few hours and then leaving."

This trend is more popular than one might think, according to Owl Labs' State of Hybrid Work 2023.

In the United Kingdom, 31% of hybrid employees are guilty of the practice, while an additional 11% said they haven't tried it yet but would like to do so. According to the report, general managers are more guilty (41%) of committing the practice than employees (23%).

In the United States, a greater 58% said they have tried coffee badging, while an additional eight per cent said they haven't but are willing to try it.

The findings come as more employers grow stricter on hybrid work policies. Major firms such as Google, Amazon, and Meta have previously introduced plans to enforce in-office attendance.

Resistance on office return

The emergence of coffee badging in workplaces reflect employees' strong resistance from their bosses' return-to-office mandates.

According to Owl Labs, 52% of UK employees and 69% in the US are under the impression that office work is required only because of "traditional work expectations."

Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs, also told Forbes that employees are no longer willing to spend time and money on office visits.

"People don't want to spend time and money on frequent office pilgrimages if they're just going to be sitting on the same video calls they'd be doing in the comfort of their own homes or on tasks that they feel less productive doing from the office," the CEO told Forbes.

What can employers do?

Weishaupt said their data shows that employers have "more work to do to provide an attractive, productive, and stress-free office environment that makes employees want to gather."

The report also noted 36% of employees would be more convinced to return if their employers paid for commuting and parking costs.

Another 31% said they would be persuaded to return to the office by free or subsidised for and beverages to offset the costs of working in the office.

"Workers want greater flexibility and they're not afraid to walk away from or get creative with jobs that don't afford them the level of flexibility they expect," Weishaupt said in a statement.

"This doesn't mean that workers don't want to be in the office at all, but that they think the office works better for some tasks than others. To ensure that work policies foster a happy and productive workforce, employers need to incorporate greater flexibility into their approaches to hybrid work."

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