It’s no secret that businesses want their employees back in the office. Countless companies have set mandates to ensure in-person work, but this has been met, largely, with dissatisfaction from employees within an organisation.
In response, workers have started to partake in a new trend called ‘coffee badging’, a daily schedule whereby you come into the office for a few hours, making sure to miss the morning’s rush hour, catch-up with colleagues over a coffee, before going home to do productive work.
This routine serves predominantly the purpose of being a ‘tick-box exercise’ where employees can show their manager that they are spending time in the office, fulfilling managerial desires for workers to ditch remote work for more hours in-person.
In this sense, the concept of ‘coffee badging’ can be likened to ideas around presenteeism, as employees feel the need to perform their role in front of their boss to appear as though they are being productive, even though they might not be.
Why are employees coffee badging?
The rise of this trend tells us a few things. Firstly, just as it was challenging for employees to transition to a remote model, it’s equally as difficult for them to then transition back. Employers should be aware that some employees will be entering the office because they feel they need to, as opposed to feeling as though it’s a space they can get the most work done.
Despite this, those in-person interactions with colleagues, over a coffee or tea, can certainly build staff relationships and can enhance work that’s done at home.
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Secondly, this type of schedule potentially highlights the risk of increased burnout amongst staff who are being encouraged, and in some cases forced, to come back into the office. For example, Amazon’s CEO, Andy Jassy, has overtly outlined that if staff choose to not come into the office, they risk not being promoted, or potentially being sacked.
The pressure employees are feeling from their employer, and society, is growing at pace. Yet this trend highlights that many workers still feel they produce more at home and are willing to manipulate their workday to appease both their employer and them. Then, this may be shedding light on a stark difference between what businesses feel produces more output and what actually does produce more.
Yet, staff uptaking this schedule to feel as though they’re still having the work-life they really want could actually lead to a drop in productivity overall, and this may be something employers need to be aware of.
"How businesses have handled the return to the office has varied; some companies are taking a gentler approach, whereas some are demanding staff go cold turkey on their cosy home offices,” says Mandy Waston, director at recruitment firm Ambitions Personnel.
"The newly coined ‘coffee badging’ stands to bridge that gap and could benefit employers and employees alike. Employers making sudden and harsh calls for staff to return to the office could be in dangerous territory with employees who may now have their routines based around working from home, considering that reason enough to start looking for a more flexible employer. Employees may also have some anxiety around change, especially those recruited in the last few years and who may have had no previous face-to-face exposure to their colleagues or the workplace. If utilised correctly, coffee badging could make for an easier transition.
"Employers may have to weigh up the benefit, however, as on the face of things, having staff travel to and from the office during the working day for just a few hours may have an immediate impact on productivity."
Ultimately, this trend highlights that despite staff appeasing employer demands to go back into the office, it isn’t necessarily what they want. And employees are willing to do whatever they can to have some of their old work-life back. But returning to the office seems like a necessary move for most businesses right now. Therefore, business leaders should contemplate delving deeper into understanding their workforce and knowing what will make their employee experience better overall, or risk damaging their retention and attrition rates.