Some employees are acting like scouts these days. They’re working on a badge — the Coffee Badge.
But we doubt Coffee Badging is something you want them to do.
Nearly 60% of employees working on-site say they’ve tried Coffee Badging, according to study from Owl Labs.
Coffee Badging for the ages
“There have always been a few outlier employees who work hard to avoid work, such as putting in just enough face-time to be recognized as having been in the office,” says Anthony Nyberg, the director of the Center for Executive Succession at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina.
Employees are Coffee Badging for a variety of reasons. And while some of their reasons and behaviors could be harmful for work, some aren’t so bad.
So you might not have to chalk this trend up to something bad for your organization. But you’ll want to understand why it’s happening and what you can do about it.
Here are the six biggest reasons employees want that Coffee Badge and tips on how you might address each.
Reason 1: Forced to the office
Many employees aren’t pleased with the return to office. In fact, some are turning their offices into downright toxic places. So even the people who are OK with being in the office are Coffee Badging because they don’t want to hang out with a bunch of disgruntled whiners.
“It is unclear how many employees are showing-up and leaving, and after leaving, are not doing any more work during the day,” says Nyberg. “That’s versus those who are leaving and then being productive in another location.”
Bottom line: Coffee badging may not be a terrible thing if employees are getting their work done well elsewhere.
Fix it: You’ll want to decipher what’s happening — are people working better or loafing off-site? If you see productivity drop, it might be time to regain control on office time. If it doesn’t, you might want to put up with Coffee Badging.
Reason 2: They’re rewarded for the wrong thing
Some companies and/or managers make employees feel like the only way to be noticed, recognized and rewarded is by being seen: If they don’t show face, they won’t get good performance reviews or be considered for promotions.
When employers manage like that, they miss the forest for the trees — overlooking good work for good looks.
“Employees may feel that they must show their presence, but being in the office is not helpful,” says Nyberg. “This could occur in situations where managers reward employees for presence more than productivity.”
Fix it: Regardless of where employees work, you want to ensure managers judge their performance on effort and results — not face time. Judgment based on physical presence is dangerous too, as it can lead to proximity bias.
Reason 3: It’s too easy
Some employees are taking the path of least resistance. They actually are just showing up to do as little as possible, and they aren’t going to do much more when they’re in the workplace.
“Employees have found a way to get paid for doing less work than is expected,” says Nyberg.
This is a problematic reason that employees Coffee Badge. They likely aren’t engaged whether they’re on-site or working from home. They might be Quiet Quitters or part of other workplace TikTok trends you don’t want to catch on in the office.
Fix it: In a hybrid work environment, remind managers that it’s critical to judge employees’ performance by the quality, quantity and ability to reach or surpass goals.
Reason 4: They feel pressured
Coffee Badging is akin to the traditional punching the time clock. Employees hear they’re supposed to punch in at a certain time or day and they lose valuable time — commuting, preparing, socializing — just to do it. Meanwhile, they feel they could’ve been more productive if they’d just worked from a home office.
“Being in the office may not help employee productivity and may even harm employees from completing their work,” says Nyberg.
Fix it: You and direct managers might want to consider loosening mandates on coming into the office if employees can prove they’re productive at home. At the same time, you likely want to encourage teams and individual employees to align in-office days and times for collaboration and teamwork. Those are best done in person and make good use of face time.
Reason 5: There’s no alternative
For many employees, they show up because they don’t have a choice. And if you’re the employer, that’s OK if you’ve chosen to implement on-site expectations. At the same time, the onus is on you to make the office a place where employees want to be and can be effective.
“There needs to be value for employees to be in the office,” says Nyberg. “Employees need to understand there are positive things that can happen when they are in the office that do not occur when they are not there.”
Fix it: Ensure the office is easily accessible, comfortable and has the tools that help employees do their jobs effectively. “If the home office has better equipment, it will be difficult to convince employees to be in the office,” quips Nyberg. Another selling point: Give professional and personal learning and development opportunities when they’re on site.
Reason 6: They like the coffee
OK, so they may not actually want the coffee — most of them probably stop at their favorite shop as a treat for making the trek in — but they want what comes with it: meaningful social connections.
So, this isn’t a terrible reason for coming into the office to Coffee Badge. In fact, “after making these connections, they retreat to places where they believe they can be more productive,” says Nyberg.
“These brief drop-ins by employees could be a good thing, if it is accepted by organizations and used as a time for catching up, sharing information and building connections,” says Nyberg. “As long as employees are using that face time well. It may not matter if an employee is in the office for two hours a day or a full day. What matters is that employee and company goals are accomplished.”
Fix it: There isn’t much to fix here. Their reason for coming in is solid. You can make it a more successful day by ensuring everyone has space to collaborate, plus the quiet areas where they can shut out distractions and get work done.