Coffee Badging Was Only a Matter of Time

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Coffee Badging Was Only a Matter of Time

Who among us is surprised by the latest salvo to be reported in the remote/hybrid work battle – coffee badging? This is the practice of swiping your badge at the office, coming in long enough to have a cup of coffee, and then retreating to your remote office to continue your work… or not. Just so you can feed a metric that has little, if any, bearing on meaningful organizational goals.

In the realm of unintended consequences, this one was entirely predictable. While employers throw more and more money, time, tech, and energy at protecting an outdated workplace model, some workers are pouring similar resources into circumventing their bosses’ efforts. Meanwhile, an awful lot of more productive endeavors (like serving customers and making money for the investors) are being sidelined in favor of a wasteful internecine conflict.

When employers started monitoring keystrokes and mouse movements, people engineered workarounds. And so it follows that employers will figure out how to thwart coffee badging, and workers will come up with something else. And the cycle will continue…

A different way forward is founded on a simple concept – trust.

I know. How quaint. But it’s proving profitable for countless organizations worldwide: Companies like Evernote, MineralTree, i4cp, Zapier, and the video solutions company SnapBar. Sam Eitzen, SnapBar’s CEO isn’t naive. He knows his way isn’t for everyone, but for him, a culture of constant surveillance didn’t provide a long-term solution. His employees like working remotely and are making him money in that setting. So it was worth it to him to find a way to make it work.

Many managers, though, have been unwilling to invest in the development of the skills necessary to lead a remote and hybrid workforce. And those skills are different – decidedly so – from what most of us are good at.

Here’s where we can start:

  1. Establish and enforce goals that measure productivity, instead of activity. Worry more about what’s getting done, and less about what they’re doing. There’s a difference.
  2. Turn up both the volume and frequency of communication with people you can’t see every day.
  3. Manage people’s performance. Involve them in establishing goals that they’ll commit to. Then hold them accountable for meeting those goals. Hitting the targets results in rewards. Failure provides less attractive consequences.
  4. Shift your investment of time and other resources from policing to providing ways to help people succeed. It’s your time and money. Spend both wisely.
  5. Deal swiftly and effectively with people who fail to earn your trust.

I recently spoke to a CEO who observed a decline in productivity when his whole company started working from home in the spring of 2020. “Back then we didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t do anything to manage our people any differently,” he acknowledged, “and so we got what you might expect.” Seeing the potential upsides to an eventual hybrid arrangement, they started working on some of the things on the list above. “Now, I don’t think we’d go back. In fact,” he said with a chuckle, “I don’t think we could go back. We’ve learned a lot, made some changes, and it’s working out really well.”

In the conversation where I first heard about coffee badging, someone said, “What’ll they think of next?” Well, you can be sure they’ll think of something. Let’s work toward getting people to think of ways to do more of what really counts, instead of how to beat a system that’s doomed to fail.

We can help you with this. Get in touch to explore how.

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