The concept of the Swedish ‘fika’ break has been given more airtime recently. Maybe due to the fact that the Western world are becoming more accustomed to living slower and realising the benefits of proper rest. Sweden is in the Top 10 Happiest Countries in the World, amongst a lot of other Scandinavian slow-living cultures like Norway and Finland. So there’s a lot we can learn from our European neighbours about finding calm amidst the chaos of the modern world.
One practice we could benefit from to make us happier, more productive and less stress is to ‘fika’.
What is ‘fika’?
Fika (pronounced fee-ka) is a Swedish term used to describe a “coffee and cake” break. But it’s so much more than just a coffee break. Unlike the rushed coffee pitstop at Pret for pick-me-up before work, “Fika” is a dedicated pause in the day to step away from screens and slow down over a hot drink and sweet treat. Fika is tradition or a ritual in Sweden, deep rooted in their culture. It’s not so much about the food being consumed, but more about the experience and state of mind. It's a moment to relax, chat, and take a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life and spend time with friends or colleagues.
“It’s not a time to talk about work – it’s a pause from work, to talk about other things” Lotta Henrysson, Head of HR at Vattenfall Sweden
The importance of fika in Sweden
In Sweden, Fika is a social institution. It's an opportunity to bond with colleagues at work, catch up with friends, or simply enjoy a moment of solitude. It's so integral to Swedish life that many workplaces have designated Fika times, even in large companies such as Volvo have fika breaks. At Vattenfall, a Swedish energy company, there is a dedicated “green room” which is filled with plants, comfy seating and sweet treats. People fika in different ways, some at the same time every day and others a little more ad hoc. But it’s so important in their culture that it is often considered impolite not to join in.
Fika has different meaning to different individuals in Sweden. For some it’s an integral time to stay connected to friends, for others it’s an important break in the work day to recharge their batteries. But whatever the personal significance, Fika is about community and taking the time to appreciate the good things in life.
The Benefits of Fika Breaks
The benefits of Fika breaks are blend of pleasure and science. It’s an enjoyable break that bringing people joys and happiness, but it’s also scientifically backed to help enhance productivity in the workplace.
Enhanced Productivity and Focus
Contrary to the notion that breaks might disrupt work, studies suggest that taking short, regular breaks like Fika can actually boost productivity.
Improves happiness through connection
Humans a social creatures and we need social connection and relationships to feel good. By spending dedicated time together every day without the distraction of work of screens, fika breaks can improve happiness.
Improved Work Environment
Fika breaks foster a sense of community and collaboration as everyone takes a break away from their screens and work to chat. This improves work relationships, promotes strong team culture in the workplace and improves job satisfaction.
Fika serves as a stress reliever. The act of stepping away from your desk and enjoying a warm beverage can lower stress levels as its an opportunity to breath and reset.
Cultural Enrichment and Mindfulness
Engaging in a cultural tradition like Fika encourages mindfulness and appreciation of the present moment. This aligns with studies in mindfulness practices, showing benefits in mental clarity and reduced anxiety.
Embracing Fika in Your Daily Routine
Fika is more than just a coffee break; it's a testament to the Swedish art of living well. By embracing this delightful tradition, we can reap numerous benefits – enhanced focus, reduced stress, stronger community bonds, and an enriched cultural experience. So, why not take a leaf out of the Swedish playbook and incorporate fika into your daily routine.
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