First, there was the trend of "quiet quitting," in which workers did the bare minimum on the job just to get by — and now, say workplace leaders and experts, there’s "coffee badging," another form of employee protest.

Read on to learn about this career trend, how it's impacting offices across the nation, and what actions can be taken in response to it.

What is ‘coffee badging’? 

As some employees are being called back to the office, many are subtly protesting by returning to the office for as little time as possible, Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs in Boston, told FOX Business. 

"Coffee badging is when employees show up to the office for enough time to have a cup of coffee, show their face, and get a ‘badge swipe' — then go home to do the rest of their work," said Weishaupt.

His firm, Owl Labs, which makes 360° video conferencing devices, did a deep dive into the trend's data.

person at laptop with coffee

The new trend of "coffee badging" at work is apparently in response to companies' requirements that more employees return to the office.  (iStock / iStock)

"Our 2023 State of Hybrid Work report found that only about 1 in 5 workers (22%) want to be in the office full time, with 37% wanting hybrid work options and 41% preferring to be fully remote," said Weishaupt. 

More than half (58%) of hybrid workers are "coffee badging," a study found. 

Further, he said the Owl Labs study found that more than half (58%) of hybrid workers are "coffee badging," while another 8% said they haven't done it yet but would like to try it.

How are workers getting away with ‘coffee badging’?

People at all levels of companies and organizations are busy with their own jobs, so they don’t have time to keep tabs on everyone else’s whereabouts, said Weishaupt. 

"If a coffee badger doesn’t have any in-person meetings or a desk near the boss, the person might not be missed," he said.

"Our data shows that about two-thirds of managers (64%) have ‘coffee badged’ themselves, with another 6% who want to try it," he also said. 

coffee break, man and woman

"If a business finds most of its employees are coffee badging, that could reflect the need to reevaluate an organization's culture and work-from-home policies." (iStock / iStock)

"Less than a third of managers (30%) want to go to the office for the full day."

Why is the trend emerging now?

Niki Jorgensen, managing director of client implementation with Insperity in Denver, told FOX Business that several months ago, coffee badging began making news as the latest work trend.

"Coffee badging is simply the latest example of the challenges businesses are facing with transitioning employees back to the office after the pandemic," she said. 

How can firms address this?

It's important for each business to do its own research into coffee badging, Jorgensen suggested.

"There is no need to panic over coffee banging, yet if a business finds most of its employees are coffee badging, that could reflect the need to reevaluate their organization's culture and work-from-home policies," she told FOX Business. 

Often, but not always, coffee badging is a reflection of employee dissatisfaction with an organization’s culture or hybrid policies, said Jorgensen. 

"Coffee badging can seem disrespectful or even insubordinate to business leaders who expect their employees to spend a full day in the office," she said. 

stressed in office

"In many cases, employees are coffee badging because they want to improve their work-life balance." (iStock / iStock)

Yet "it's important to understand that the motivations for coffee badging are rarely ill-intentioned," she clarified. 

"In many cases, employees are coffee badging because they want to improve their work-life balance."

Three fixes to consider

Company managers may want to focus on a few strategies to halt coffee badging among employees, Jorgensen said.

  1. Implement flex hours. "To encourage employees to spend more time at the office, consider flex hours so they can come in an hour earlier or later," she said.
  2. Encourage employees to get together. Employees want to socialize with one another, said Jorgensen. Given this, "leaders can create opportunities for employees to socialize by planning events over lunch or immediately after hours," she said.
  3. Embrace open communication. Coffee badging can be a symptom of overworked, burned-out, and disengaged employees, Jorgensen suggested.

"To combat it, invite employees to speak up about their experience in the workplace and share solutions to help them balance their work and personal lives more easily," she said.

When can coffee badging hurt business?

When the practice becomes too widespread among employees, the trend can detract from organizational culture, Jorgensen indicated.

"When workers only come into the office briefly and then leave, they are not spending as much time interacting face to face," she told FOX Business. 

"Over time, this can undermine relationship-building and reduce collaboration."

Business persons walking and working around the office building

"Rather than have constant flux and unpredictability around who is where," said one workplace experts, companies might "create a schedule that meets people in the middle." (iStock / iStock)

Emily Ballesteros, founder of Burnout Management, LLC, in Seattle and author of the upcoming book, "The Cure for Burnout: How to Find Balance and Reclaim Your Life" (Feb. 2024), told FOX Business that a downside to the coffee badging trend is that it creates unpredictability that can impact others. 

"Where there is unrest, there is usually a need to be met."

"Trying to schedule meetings when you're unsure of who is virtual or in-person; planning around commutes to and from the office; needing clarification on whether a meeting is virtual or in-person, etc. — all of this adds a bit more unpredictability to the workday that can cause frustration," Ballesteros said. 

To reduce unpredictability, many companies are introducing hybrid schedules. 

"They have seen on surveys that their employees would like the flexibility to work from home sometimes," she said. 

"So rather than have constant flux and unpredictability around who is where, they create a schedule that meets people in the middle, such as saying that everyone works from home Monday and Friday and everyone is in the office Tuesday-Thursday," noted Ballesteros. 

"Where there is unrest, there is usually a need to be met."