Updated: January 19, 2024

Coffee Badging at Work: What It Is and How to Fix It

You found our guide on coffee badging and how to fix it.

Coffee badging occurs when workers come to the office just long enough to grab a cup of coffee before leaving to work elsewhere. This trend often acts as a response to return-to-office policies. Coffee badging can negatively affect office culture, as workers spend less time face-to-face.

Coffee badging is like other emerging workplace trends, such as bare minimum Mondays, quiet quitting, and grumpy staying.


This list includes:

  • coffee badging meaning and definition
  • why hybrid workers are coffee badging
  • ways to spot coffee badging
  • how to prevent coffee badging

Let’s get started.

Coffee badging meaning and definition

Coffee badging occurs when employees go to the office, have a coffee, and then leave to work elsewhere. Usually, these workers come into the office late and leave early.

By making an appearance, employees earn their “badge” for the day despite not working in the office. “Badging” may also refer to employees swiping their badges to get attendance marks. These staff aim to meet attendance policies while spending little time in the office.

Employers often refer to coffee badging as presenteeism’s modern cousin. Presenteeism occurs when employees come to work when sick or injured. Thus, workers are “present” but not efficient.

Owl Labs’ “State of Hybrid Work” report surveyed 2,000 workers. Of the respondents, 58% admit to coffee badging, while another 8% have not tried it but would. This stat indicates a shift in workers’ thinking and may signal that companies need to adapt.

Why hybrid workers are coffee badging

Hybrid workers may engage in coffee badging to turn hybrid jobs mostly remote.

This behavior typically comes as a result of return-to-office, or RTO, policies. According to a survey by Resume Builder, nine out of ten companies will return to the office by the end of 2024. In contrast, Spiceworks writes that less than 50% of employees want to return to the office. When workers do not want to spend time in the office, they may silently protest by finding ways around policies.

Employees may also coffee badge for the following reasons.

1. Spending less money

Many coffee badgers take up the practice to save money. The “State of Hybrid Work” report says hybrid employees spend an average of $51 per day when working at the office. These costs include commuting, parking, breakfast, lunch, and pet or child care. Employees cite these expenses as one of the top reasons they prefer remote work. In fact, 38% of employees would happily return to the office if their firm compensated them for these costs.

2. Saving time

Employees often cite saving time as a reason to arrive late and leave early. Coffee badgers spend less time commuting by beating traffic rushes. According to Resume Builder, 85% of workers believe working from home would be more convenient. An additional 77% of employees feel they would save money on commuting.

Additionally, many workers also believe they are more productive when working from home. The same Resume Builder report claims that 49% of workers feel remote work would boost their productivity.

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3. Socializing with colleagues

Coffee badgers grab a cup of coffee and chat with colleagues so leaders and coworkers will see them. Some workers may come to the office solely to socialize. Working in a traditional office is great for creating connections. However, coming in purely to chat skews the balance and hurts productivity. With a normal schedule, workers have the whole day to build relationships. Coffee badging condenses social time into the first part of the day, leaving no time for actual work to get done.

4. Protesting work policies or culture

Workers might disagree with RTO policies or consider office work outdated. Going to the office for short periods silently protests traditional working practices. Similar to bare minimum Mondays, workers contribute less to show dissatisfaction with expectations. Depending on your work policies, coffee badging may not even be against the rules.

Check out this list of work from home policies.

5. Lacking engagement

Employees might avoid the office because the environment is not engaging. Working from home enables employees to create offices that fit individual needs. Employees can also work from other locations, like coffee shops. These environments can contrast the company office, which aims to fit broad needs. Thus, workers might find themselves less interested in staying at work all day.

Learn more about the importance of employee engagement.

6. Seeking recognition

RTO is a return to a more traditional workplace environment. Many workers feel they will not get praise or promotions without coming into the office. Office culture may support this belief. KMPG surveyed company CEOs in their “2023 U.S. CEO Outlook” report. Findings showed that 90% of CEOs would give better assignments, raises, and promotions to employees who come into the office. Coffee badgers might try to earn these benefits while still working from home often.

7. Coping with burnout

Office environments can contribute to employee burnout. For instance, employees may get extra projects or clash with colleagues when they come in. If workers find the office stressful, then they might try to find a way to spend as little time there as possible.

Here are some ways to spot work burnout.

8. Following trends

Like any workplace trend, coffee badging is the latest to go viral. Apps like TikTok have several videos explaining the trend, reaching thousands of views. Similar to quiet quitting or bare minimum Mondays, many viewers support coffee badging. This support may increase prevalence. In fact, some articles and videos even recommend the practice to protest RTO policies.

Effects of coffee badging

Coffee badging can have a negative impact on the office culture. Workers who stay in the office all day may feel coffee badgers take advantage of the system. This perception can drive a wedge between colleagues.

Firms that do not address coffee badging might also seem like they do not notice staff behavior. Further, this practice can make companies look like they cannot manage their workforce.

Working in the office encourages employees to connect. However, this benefit lessens when workers show up late and leave early. This practice makes it harder for colleagues to connect, both literally and figuratively. Employees wanting to schedule quick meetings cannot directly reach colleagues who have left. Additionally, spending less time in person makes it harder to create strong bonds.

Ways to spot coffee badging

Depending on the size of your company, coffee badging can be hard to see in action. Many workers who follow this trend rely on busy managers or large teams to conceal their actions. If you are looking for ways to spot coffee badging, then consider the following options.

1. Time logs

The simplest way to check for coffee badging is to review time clock spreadsheets. These logs record when employees come in and out of the office. You can track these sheets to ensure workers stay in the office for the whole day once they clock in.

However, this technique may not work if you have salaried employees or do not have a time clock system. Also, workers can avoid scanning their badges when they leave, making it hard to track their time.

2. Office drop-ins

Coffee badging relies on workers only coming in for part of the day. Leaders can check attendance by visiting workers’ offices at random to see if they are present. Additionally, managers can ask employees to come by their office to ensure they are still at work. These drop-ins work best if managers use the strategy at varied times and with a mix of employees. The downside of this method is supervisors will need to spend more time checking up on employees.

3. Remote tool use

If your firm has remote working tools, then you can check those for overuse. For example, your company website may have a remote login or authentication process. Alternatively, employees may use digital communication methods rather than talking in person. In these cases, you can see whether time spent with these tools aligns with in-office hours.

4. Peer feedback

Busy managers do not have the bandwidth to monitor employee attendance. In this case, asking colleagues to keep each other accountable can be helpful. For instance, coworkers who share working space might notice when their colleague leaves. Then, this worker can share that information with management. Additionally, consider setting up anonymous reporting channels. These systems can make employees more comfortable making reports.

5. Surveys

Coffee badging is often a symptom of a different issue at the office. Whether teams are unhappy with the office or policies, they might try coffee badging. Anonymous surveys are a great way to check the team’s perspective. Surveys may show workers’ dissatisfaction with office life. In that case, you can take steps to correct those issues before coffee badging gets out of control.

Be sure surveys are truly anonymous to encourage participants to reply honestly. Consider using third-party survey companies to ensure anonymity.

Here is a list of employee engagement software.

How to prevent coffee badging

When looking to prevent coffee badging, there are two main considerations. First, working with your team to ensure their wishes align with your expectations is important. Second, you must clarify policies to ensure they do not contain loopholes. Here are some steps to reduce coffee badging in your workplace.

1. Compensate workers for extra expenses

Coffee badging can result from workers trying to save money. If RTO is especially important to your organization, then consider increasing workers’ salaries. This act can cover some of the team’s extra expenses. For instance, employees will spend more money on gas and might need to pay for pet, child, or elder care. Boosting wages can help workers account for these costs. Another option is to subsidize care or offer it on-site.

2. Lead by example

If you expect your workers to spend a certain amount of time in the office, then you must do the same. Modeling good behavior is one of the top ways to encourage teams to follow suit. When managers show up late or leave early, they signal that this behavior is acceptable. Further, supervisors engaging in this behavior cannot watch the workplace for coffee badging.

3. Offer more flexible schedules

One of the reasons employees coffee badge is to fight RTO policies. In fact, a Digital survey of 1,000 workers shows that 52% of workers would quit over RTO policies. With this stat in mind, consider which working format is the best fit for your office. For instance, some employees could remain completely remote. Alternatively, you could allow workers to choose which days they want to come into the office. You could also consider a four-day workweek to give employees an additional day off.

Here is a guide to more types of hybrid work schedules.

4. Make the office more enticing

One of the top ways to encourage employees to enjoy spending time at the office is to make it a nice environment. For instance, you can offer more catered lunches or even add a cafeteria to the office space. On a smaller scale, you can stock the office with snacks and drinks. Providing food also combats the costs associated with coming to the office in person.

Personalized office setups are part of the appeal of working from home. Thus, giving the office a makeover might encourage team members to stay in the office longer. For example, you can order more ergonomic chairs or redecorate to create a cozy vibe. For the best results, poll your team to see which improvements are most important to them.

Check out these tips on creating a positive work environment.

5. Schedule activities and events

Planning fun events and activities is a great way to improve the office. For instance, you can host parties, go on outings, or try team building experiences. Team building exercises help teams bond, encouraging them to work together more efficiently. Plus, activities and events reward employees for coming to work in person.

Check out our list of in-person team bonding activities.

6. Reward workers who stay in the office

Rewards are a great way to encourage employees to stay at work. For instance, you can run attendance contests and give prizes out to those with the best record. You could also dedicate the best parking spaces for employees who arrive earliest. Positive reinforcement can encourage folks to work from the office by choice.

7. Update workplace policies

Often, coffee badgers avoid the office because unclear RTO policies do not explicitly ban the behavior. Policies may state that employees should work at the office two out of five days, but they do not specify for how long. In these instances, coffee badging is not technically against the rules. If you want to prevent coffee badging, then you must clarify your rules. For instance, the policy could include that workers must spend two eight-hour days per week at the office. That way, policies do not contain confusion or gray areas.

8. Emphasize productivity

Ultimately, the most important part of the workday is finishing assigned tasks. Therefore, shifting the company’s emphasis onto completing projects may benefit morale. This shift may naturally discourage coffee badging. With this focus, workers will feel less pressure to go to the office to gain recognition.

Check out this list of productivity tips.


Coffee badging is the latest viral trend surrounding workplace policies. This modern-day equivalent to presenteeism emphasizes coming to work as little as possible. This practice can negatively impact office relationships. Employees who stay in the office all day may resent coffee badgers. Further, these brief office appearances offer fewer opportunities for connections and collaboration. You may see issues with workers’ start times or have trouble finding them during the day. Then, it might be time to consider addressing coffee badging in the workplace.

Next up, check out our articles on loud quitting and causes of employee turnover.

FAQ: Coffee badging

Here are answers to common questions about coffee badging.

What is coffee badging?

Coffee badging occurs when staff come to the office late, talk to colleagues, and then leave early. Often, coffee badgers make sure to stop by the boss’s office to ensure their managers see them at work.

How can you spot coffee badging in the workplace?

You can spot coffee badging at work using several techniques.

If this practice worries you, then try the following:

  • Check time logs often.
  • Drop into offices at random times.
  • Monitor tools meant for remote use.
  • Ask other employees if they have noticed coffee badgers.
  • Send out employee satisfaction surveys.

With these methods, you can watch the office for any signs of coffee badging.

How can you prevent coffee badging?

Preventing coffee badging relies on aligning employee wishes with company expectations.

Here are a few steps to deter coffee badging:

  • Compensate workers for extra expenses.
  • Offer more flexible schedule options.
  • Make the office a more engaging place.
  • Update office policies.
  • Emphasize productivity.

By focusing on workplace culture and productivity, you can prevent coffee badging.

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CEO at teambuilding.com.
I write about my experience working with and leading remote teams since 2010.

LinkedIn Michael Alexis

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