Four women working in a business meeting in a cafe coffee shop

The “coffee badging” trend is a creative way that workers have found to get around return to office mandates to save time and money. Employees are showing up to the office for enough time to have a cup of coffee and earn an imaginary badge for it, then going home to do their work. Owl Labs (a company that builds 360-degree videoconferencing solutions) released its 2023 State of Hybrid Work report. This year’s seventh annual report reveals that the yearly return-to-office power struggle that happens each fall has arrived yet again. Companies like Zoom, Meta, SalesforceCRM, J.P. Morgan and more are begging, enticing and even forcing their employees to return to the office.

We Won’t Go Back

The Owl survey discovered why employees are resisting—people don’t want to spend time and money on frequent office visits, and many companies have more work to do to provide an attractive, productive and stress-free office environment that makes employees want to gather. “People don’t want to spend time and money on frequent office pilgrimages if they’re just going to be sitting on the same video calls they’d be doing in the comfort of their own homes or on tasks that they feel less productive doing from the office,” says Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs. “The data shows that many companies have more work to do to provide an attractive, productive and stress-free office environment that makes employees want to gather.”

These findings add to the workforce attitude that demands more workplace flexibility. Other highlights of the report, which surveyed 2,000 full-time workers in the United States, include the following:

  • Eight percent of the workers said they haven’t been coffee badging but would like to try it.
  • Despite their hesitations, 94% of workers are willing to return to office.
  • More than 38% would be more likely to go to the office if their companies paid for their commuting costs, while 28% could be swayed by daycare or eldercare subsidies or on-site alternatives, a likely result of the caregiver shortage.
  • 72% said a flexible or non-existent dress code is important to them.
  • 24% would be enticed to go to the office if they could wear any clothing or styles they choose, with another 25% saying they would even take a 15% pay cut for the privilege.
  • 25% of workers are worried AI will steal their jobs but half of them still want their employers to use it.
  • 31% think AI will compete with their jobs, and 23% are concerned it will steal their jobs altogether. Another 32% believe AI will cause ethical issues in their workplaces.
  • About 44% of employees believe AI will help them do their jobs faster and more effectively, and 35% think it will create new jobs and team growth.
  • Augmented or mixed reality devices are on the wish list at 44%, while 38% said they would like to use holograms or avatars in the workplace.

Forced Return-To-Office Leads To ‘Coffee Badging’

One reason workers are not staying the full day is because it’s expensive. Employees spend an average of $51 per day when they go to the office, which is $408 for hybrid workers (8 days/month) and $1,020 for full-time office workers per month. Meaning in-office, full-time employees spend three times as much as full-time remote workers. This includes a daily average of $16 on lunch, $14 on the commute, $13 on breakfast and coffee and $8 on parking. Those with pets also spend an average of $20 per day on pet care.

Commuting time also is likely affecting this trend. With 61% of workers spending 30 minutes to one and a half hours commuting each day and 20% spending one and a half to two hours, the office experience needs to make the trip worthwhile. Allowing for flexible hours—arriving after morning rush hour and leaving before the evening—could make a significant impact on total daily time spent in transit. This year’s report reveals the current return to office divide, with employers putting their energy into calling people back but missing the mark on what their employees really need from the in-office or hybrid experience.

A total of 69% believe their employers are requiring them to work from the office because of traditional work expectations, especially when 60% of hybrid workers think they’re more productive when they work from home (30% say they are at the same level of productivity working from home). As employees are being called back to the office yet again, many are subtly protesting by complying for as little time as possible. A full 58% of hybrid workers are “coffee badging,” while another eight percent say they haven’t been coffee badging but would like to try it.


  • Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Journalist, psychotherapist, and Author of 40 books.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, psychotherapist in private practice, and award-winning author of two novels and 40 nonfiction books that have been translated into 15 languages. His latest books are CHAINED TO THE DESK IN A HYBRID WORLD: A GUIDE TO WORK-LIFE BALANCE (New York University Press, 2023)#CHILL: TURN OFF YOUR JOB AND TURN ON YOUR LIFE (William Morrow, 2019), DAILY WRITING RESILIENCE: 365 MEDITATIONS & INSPIRATIONS FOR WRITERS (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He is a regular contributor to, Psychology Today, and Thrive Global. He has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, ABC's World News Tonight, NPR’s Marketplace, NBC Nightly News and he hosted the PBS documentary "Overdoing It: How To Slow Down And Take Care Of Yourself." website: