If you have never heard of the Swedish concept of FIKA, let me introduce you!
Fika is pronounced fee - ka.
Fika is a Swedish word which has no proper English translation, but I like to think of it as:
taking a break from work & enjoying a hot cup of tea or coffee with a friend (or a few), while chatting and enjoying a delicious pastry such as a cinnamon bun or cake.
It's an important part of Swedish culture and Swedes in an office environment regularly take at least 2 Fika per day. Generally, a Fika will last between 15 minutes and 1 hour, but a weekend Fika with friends can go on for hours.
I’ve noticed Fika used as both a noun and a verb.
As a noun you could say.. “Want to join us for a Fika?”
Used as a verb, it could sound like.. “Let’s Fika at the cafe across the street!”
However you choose to refer to it (I’ll use it as a noun), there are many benefits of Fika. People who take a daily Fika while at work feel more:
Suffer less body aches and lower back pain
Enjoy a higher sense of office morale
Fika is so ingrained in the Swedish culture, that if I worked in a Swedish office and choose not to take a Fika, I would likely receive some funny looks from my coworkers.
The Swedes as well as other Scandinavians understand the importance of taking time to relax and recharge oneself. Fika is a good example of Lagom, the Swedish lifestyle concept which emphasizes balance and living a moderated, simple life.
Instead of balancing work and the relaxation time, we can go to extremes and focus solely on work and only take a break when we need more caffeine or to use the washroom. This is not a healthy way to work and breaks are necessary to maintain productivity and mental well-being.
Fika breaks are important for us to recharge, connect with those around us and give our eyes a break from the computer screen.
FIKA FOR TWO, THREE OR FOUR!
The next time you have a slower day at work, organize a Fika for you and a few co-workers.
Plan to meet at either mid morning or mid afternoon, say 3pm and head to a local cafe. Plan the break for 30 minutes so you still have time to be highly productive when you return to your desk, but you have enough time to grab your coffee, a pastry and a seat.
Try to keep work talk to a minimum, as this is meant to be a break for the body and the mind. If there is a public holiday coming up, ask the others what they have planned, what they enjoy most about it, will they be travelling, etc.
Especially if you aren’t close to your co-workers, this a great way to get a hearty conversation going, while connecting with them on a new level.
DID YOU KNOW? The word Fika comes from the Swedish word Kaffi, which means coffee!
Another idea is to organize an office-wide Fika. If your office is too big, plan a department-wide Fika instead!
Ask for a few volunteers to bake some cinnamon buns, sugar cookies or any other yummy baked goods. If your HR department has a budget for it, you can have these items outsourced, but I personally think there is nothing better than homemade treats!
Ensure there is plenty of coffee to go around. Also, it's nice to have a tea option, as some much prefer a cup of tea, but don’t want to be left out of the Fika fun!
Create a cozy environment in your office, (incorporate a little Hygge) by dimming the lights slightly, putting on some soft coffee-house music like Bossa Nova or Billie Holiday (have someone bring in a bluetooth speaker if you don’t have a sound system) and put out napkins and ceramic mugs for co-workers to use - bonus points if you can incorporate candles in some way!
To ensure the Fika is fun-focused and not just a coffee break to go over a previous meeting, include a question written on a piece of paper and placed next to the coffee & treats. Providing a question keeps the atmosphere light and prevents any anxiety about what to talk about. Try questions like “what is your favourite Pixar movie”, “What is your ideal date night?” or “If you woke up tomorrow and could fly, where would you go?”
I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much people enjoy themselves and how spending 30 minutes together over coffee can significantly boost office morale.
MY GO TO FIKA TREAT:
Homemade cinnamon bun warmed up for 10 seconds or Swedish baked Nyakers ginger snaps. These little biscuits are packed with flavour and go perfectly with a big cup of green tea (my Fika go to). Orange is my flavour of choice as orange and ginger seem to be made for each other, but honestly all of them are delicious - trust me!
You can find Nyakers ginger snaps at most large grocery stores or at specialty grocers like Pusateri’s in Toronto. They’re roughly $3.00 CAD per box. Enjoy!