'Coffee badging' is one of the recent trends that has come to light as the hybrid work model gets underway but is the trend an indicator of something much larger? Experts dive into the trend and why organisations need to pay heed
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The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we perceive everything around us including our workspaces, especially if we are working from the office. Even if the term work-from-home existed before, not many people had heard of it till many of us were forced to work from our homes. Some of quite a few outcomes were that people wanted to continue working from home, even as others were called to the office. Three years on, many corporate offices are calling their employees back to work. While some of them have to come to the workspace every day, others have to come alternate days, or just once or twice a week but that has given rise to a new trend.
Commonly called ‘Coffee Badging’, it’s a term that has been circulating over the last few weeks because of the unique approach that it gives not only towards work but also the workspace. For those who are unaware of the trend, it simply means the act of showing up to work for a brief time to sip on some coffee, or chat with colleagues to show your presence before you leave to work from home again. The trend has accelerated because more people are expected to come to work for the first time since the pandemic, and not many of them are keen on it after they have seen the benefits of working from home and experts believe it was waiting to happen.
Wake up and smell the coffee
City-based HR consultant Srinivas Kulkarni explains, "I believe all the ‘trends’ like quiet quitting, quiet firing and now coffee badging are not new, and the ‘trending terms’ mostly see their origin from workspaces that are predominantly in the US. I don’t think the term and concept is new here or that popular in its literal sense." However, there is more to the trend than what meets the eye. It is because India not only has a long coffee tea break culture rather than structured work-break-work-go-home style. “But it is important to note, nowadays, most new-age workplaces, have accountability attached to the roles people have. At the end of the day, if people are responsible for the results, it doesn’t matter how they get the work done and how often they have to come to work, especially in roles that don’t require them to come,” he adds.
Farzana Suri, city-based life and victory coach, says the key isn't just about clocking in anymore. “It is about having the freedom to choose when to do so. Let us face it, employees are often coffee-badging because they feel obligated to check-in. It is time for an open conversation, a fresh look at workplace policies, and an acknowledgement of the evolving nature of workplace presence. If you make that move, your employees are likely to reciprocate with a positive response.”
It also points towards how efficiency has become the most important factor in getting one’s job done, adds Kulkarni. The human resource professional points out that if an arduous ‘shift-based’ culture is what is expected from employees, then it has its effects. He shares, “If the same work style continues, then we will keep seeing people find ways to work around such strong policies. Ideally, there is no need for coffee badging, if people get to do the work they love doing, the way they want, and flexible hybrid, remote work options.” If the employees are called back to the office so that they can work with their team and socialise, the Mumbaikar says it is essentially coffee badging itself. But, if there is flexibility introduced in systems, and accountability defined, people will surely respond better and won’t need to coffee badge at all.
In a post-pandemic workplace
One has to admit that coffee badging is the result of the changing dynamics of the workplace after the Covid-19 pandemic. The very idea of a physical workspace is good to have, says Kulkarni but the need and desire of having everyone come in daily is futile now. “It is especially evident in digital companies where it is proven that efficient work can be done without having to be in the office all the time.” Additionally, people will tend to find remote jobs or hybrid ones, points out Kulkarni as they would go to work at their choice and plan better to ensure the bonding exists and at the same time, they get their flexibility. “If organisations respect that, and can logistically manage this, it’s a win-win for all,” he adds.
Such has been the change that Suri believes that the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated a more flexible and agile approach to physical workspaces. She questions, “Are we valuing showing up over showing results? It is important to evaluate why it is happening, what you can do about it and how far are you willing to stretch. More and more employees avoid the trudge of a long commute and the cost over the ability to deliver more in the comfort of their work hours.”