Fika: The Coffee Break to Really Recharge
In Sweden they enjoy a coffee break a couple of times a day that is vastly different than the typical US version. They actually use it as a time to recharge themselves outside of their jobs. Employing two of the Living Happier@Work pillars of exercise and mindfulness, they step away from the job and stop to relax. One of the people interviewed for an article in Quartz.com, noted how easily the workers were able to “switch back and forth from relaxation to focus.”
These coffee breaks are called “Fika.” Everyone takes Fika, it has been mandated by the government. The short breaks are taken regularly once in the morning and then again in the afternoon throughout the country (three times per day in some companies). Because the employees interact together regardless of their level on the organization chart, the interactions have created an unofficial methodology to break down office hierarchies.
As a result of the combination of positive actions – exercise to step away from the office, fresh air if they go outside to get coffee, mindfulness by refocusing their brains off work and the casual conversation with colleagues – the Fika is credited with increasing productivity in Swedish workplaces.
In the article, the US coffee break mentality was contrasted with Fika. When we are at work and stop to get coffee, even when we go to Starbucks, we rarely sit down to enjoy our coffee. We get ‘to-go’ cups and keep it moving. But in Sweden they sit to enjoy mugs of steaming coffee or tea. And often a baked good, too.
I wonder if this concept would ever be accepted in US offices. I think a short break for everyone to step away and recharge would be a nice thing. But I think a lot of people would turn it into impromptu meetings about work issues. It would never allow the staff to “blow the dust off our brains,” and invite creativity to spark. Is the Fika practice one you would like to see US business and organizations employ?