A photo of people at a coffee shop to represent the topic of the article - Fika: How To Improve Wellbeing Like A Swede

Fika: How To Improve Wellbeing Like A Swede

 

I randomly stumbled on to the concept of fika when I came across a video short by the BBC. I feel in love with the concept instantly. Because I loved the concept of the Swedish fika, I did a little research into it and ended up creating this article. I hope you enjoy this little slice of Swedish life.

 

How To pronounce Fika

 

Let’s first tackle the subject of how to pronounce fika. Because I’m dyslexic with considerable issues with phonetics, I hate it when people tell me to say it or spell it like it sounds. So not helpful. To avoid me being one of those people, here’s how you pronounce fika: fee-ka (Afar).

 

Advertisements

 

What Is Fika?

 

As the title of the article suggests, fika is a Swedish concept. To a Swede, fika is a big part of their everyday life (Hej Sweden). In a nutshell, fika is where Swedes have a coffee break. However, Swedish fikas are nothing like a coffee break in the US or UK where a solitary employee makes themself a coffee or a tea, and if you’re lucky, makes enough for everyone else before returning to their desk to continue working (Stybel Peabody Associates, Inc., n.d.).

 

A fika is much more than a coffee break. Many Swedes think it’s essential to make time for a fika every day. They make time to gather with coworkers at work or with friends outside of work for coffee (or any drink), something delicious to eat, and chat (Swedish Food). In short, you can’t have a fika on your own.

 

Over the years, baked treats such as fikabröd (fika bread) accompanied the traditional coffee and a chat fika. The arrival of patisseries in 19th century Sweden cemented the tradition as a coffee-and-cake-custom enjoyed with friends (Visit Sweden).

 

In Sweden, fika is more than just a quick hit of caffeine. It’s an excuse to slow down and relax in the company of others, and if done right, it’s believed to improve productivity and enhance wellbeing (BBC).

 

Advertisements

 

How Can Fika Support Your Wellbeing?

 

Work

A study conducted by the National Charity Partnership (a collaboration between the British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK, and Tesco) was reported on by Employee Benefits. The study found that of the 2,000 employee participants, 24% regularly work through their lunch breaks.

 

This is supported by Totaljobs, who conducted a study on 7,135 participants and found that 56% of workers never take their full lunch break. This study also found that 68% of those surveyed justified skipping lunch because of having too much to do or an unexpected task to manage. It’s no wonder everyone feels stressed all the time and certain jobs have a high turnover because of burnout.

 

In Sweden, many workplaces, as part of the regular daily schedule, have a fika at 10:00 and again at 15:00 (Hej Sweden). But remember, this is only effective if you’re not working during these breaks. Working defeats the point. The point is to have 10-30 minutes to socialise, which helps manage stress and your wellbeing.

 

Why is taking a fika break important? You might be asking. Well, 14.7% of workers experience mental health problems in the workplace (Lelliott, Tulloch, Boardman, Harvey, and Henderson, 2008). Which will have a knock on effect on productivity, wellbeing, sick days taken, and overall quality of life.

 

The importance of taking breaks at work was found in a study by Ariga and Lleras (2011). Using 84 participants, they sort to investigate the effects of taking a break on performance. The study found that taking breaks boosted performance rather than hindering it.

 

Another workplace benefit of introducing fikas into the workday is that it’ll allow and encourage informal communication across departments and divisional lines (Stybel Peabody Associates, Inc., n.d.). It might take a few fika breaks before people become comfortable talking across departments, but it’ll create a happier and healthier work environment. It’ll also allow for networking (Morley, Angervall, Berggren, and Dodillet, 2018).

 

Some of the other perks of fika are, according to Health Assured: a more engaged workforce, reduced injuries in physically demanding roles, a boost in creativity, reduced presenteeism and absenteeism, and improved job satisfaction. It can also improve team building, help keep staff, and boost staff morale (Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland).

 

Remember, it’s not really about getting your shot of caffeine on the go, it’s about scheduling pauses in the day. These pauses give you time to catch your breath and recenter yourself to carry on.

 

Here’s a thought, why not turn some of those never ending meetings into a fika break instead? Or, if possible, get your workplace to add fika breaks for 10-30 minutes a day, and embrace the Swedish lifestyle. They already cater for our furniture needs, so you may as well enjoy the other perks of Sweden as well. Sweden is the sixth happiest county in the world, after all.

 

The picture is split in two with the top image being of a photo of people sitting outside a café at night, and the bottom image being of a white woman using a wheelchair sitting at a table with a cup of coffee. The two images are separated by the article title - Fika: How To Improve Wellbeing Like A Swede

 

Personal life

Even before the pandemic, making time to catch up with your family and friends was already hard enough. Especially when it comes time to knowing when and how to leave a get together, which we Brits can really struggle with. We can be so awkward. This is where fika could fit in for a dose of self-care happiness.

 

Establish your fika boundaries with your friends and family, then just invite them all for a fika gathering at someone’s home, local cafe, or pâtisserie. You could even have an online fika with your online friends and family from around the world.

 

Fika is also an excellent alternative to going to the pub, which us Brits could do with moving away from. Who doesn’t love a nice pastry or a cake and a chat?

 

Advertisements

 

Summary

 

To fika or not to fika, that is the question. The answer to that question, if you ask me, is to fika. Not only is taking a few brief breaks good for your own wellbeing, it’s even beneficial for your employer. But its benefits come from the social aspect of it, rather than just having a break on your own. So whether in your work life, social life, or ideally both, try to make time to be a Swede and have a fika.

 

As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, please share your experiences fika and other social breaks in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget, if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.

 

Lastly, if you’d like to support my blog, you can make a donation of any size below. Until next time, Unwanted Life readers.

 

 

.

 

References

Ariga, A. & Lleras, A. (2011). Brief and rare mental “breaks” keep you focused: Deactivation and reactivation of task goals preempt vigilance decrements. Cognition118(3), 439-443. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/13336930/Brief_and_rare_mental_breaks_keep_you_focused_Deactivation_and_reactivation_of_task_goals_preempt_vigilance_decrements, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/222820913_Brief_and_rare_mental_breaks_keep_you_focused_Deactivation_and_reactivation_of_task_goals_preempt_vigilance_decrements, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21211793, and https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0010027710002994.

Lelliott, P., Tulloch, S., Boardman, J., Harvey, S., & Henderson, H. (2008). Mental health and work. Retrieved from gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/212266/hwwb-mental-health-and-work.pdf.

Morley, L., Angervall, P., Berggren, C., & Dodillet, S. (2018). Re-purposing fika: rest, recreation or regulation in the neoliberalized Swedish University?. European Journal of Higher Education8(4), 400-414. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/21568235.2018.1458637, https://doi.org/10.1080/21568235.2018.1458637, and https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Petra-Angervall/publication/324248034_Re-purposing_fika_rest_recreation_or_regulation_in_the_neoliberalized_Swedish_University/links/5ac7372f0f7e9bcd51933881/Re-purposing-fika-rest-recreation-or-regulation-in-the-neoliberalized-Swedish-University.pdf.

Stybel Peabody Associates, Inc. (n.d.). Fika, H. Y. T. Help! Our Corporate Culture is SO Silo-Driven. Retrieved from https://stybelpeabody.com/pdf/psychologytodayfika.pdf.

85 thoughts on “Fika: How To Improve Wellbeing Like A Swede

  1. It is an exciting concept. It can improve productivity. Lunch breaks in the companies i worked were having lunch together. There was a hassle to finish it soon to get back to work. I found coffee breaks far more relaxing.

  2. I want to Fika ❤️it’s a great idea especially since we’re starting to get back to the office again ☕️

  3. I firmly agree that taking breaks improves productivity. That’s why I always take my lunch break, get away from my desk, and get outside if I can. Scandinavian countries have this wellness thing figured out, yet English speaking countries seem to applaud people who work themselves into exhaustion. The happiness scores bear up that it’s not working very well for us. It’s time for change! Thanks for sharing this.

    • Yeah, you’re not wrong about English speaking countries, as well as countries like China and Japan, wanting to work people until they break. There’s even a special word for dying because you’ve been overworked in Japan, which is worrying. That Japanese word is karoshi. The economy needs to be based in works wellbeing and not just profits

      • It might sound cliché, but I have always focused more on output than input. I remember reading something years ago about “corporate braggers” – people who constantly talk about how hard they work and how many hours they put in. It’s one of the reasons I have never wanted to move any higher than my current position. The extra money isn’t worth the sacrifice, in my opinion.

        • Yeah, I’m not in it for the money. I’ve been happy spending most my life as a volunteer because it was the work I was doing that made me happy.

          My partner also is content with staying in the position they are rather than climbing up the ladder. Because they’d rather do the work than manage people and taking on that kind of stress

  4. Fika sounds so interesting. I love seeing cultures include well-being and mental health as part of a requirement for its inhabitants. Learning about Fika reminds me of the Danish lifestyle known as “Hygge” and that’s all I could think about while reading this blog post. Over here in the states, we are told we have to overwork ourselves and then reprimanded for the poor results. With hustle culture and grinding for the rest of our lives shoved down our throats, it’s no wonder why a lot of us suffer from high stress and contributes to mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. It should be a world-wide human right to be able to live more relaxed and reading about Fika really sparked that thought in me.

    I’m not surprised that the findings of the surveys that people are missing their lunch breaks or feeling stressed during it. We can all learn from practices like Fika to improve our life; in and out of the work place. I’m a stay-at-home parent and blogger, I can definitely learn to sit and relax more! It was so sweet to learn about Swedes sitting and taking actual breaks; happy people are naturally more productive!

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. I feel like the uk already kind of has this we call it a tea break. Most companies have, apart from a lunch break, at least one tea break.

    I guess. The big departure is that you can do his by yourself where as in Sweden it sounds like it would be a rarity.

    I do think ita important to slow down. Work to live and not live to work 🙂 Some people might read this and make a change. Little things like this can make a big and positive impact. Thanks for sharing Fika 🙂

    • I don’t think I’ve met many people who have taken a proper tea break, cigarette breaks for sure. I guess it depends if you work in an office or not, then you get more freedom to take a break, but you don’t take these breaks collectively, which is where the main benefits come from

  6. There’s a similar thing here in Finland but we don’t have a special name for it other than ‘kahvi tauko’ (coffee break). It’s a short 10-15 minute break when you can have a coffee and some kind of sweet snack.

  7. To fika is my answer! I love this so much and wish the US put as much value into people, connections and happiness as the Swedes do. They are also knocking it out of the park in education. Seems like a great act to follow in many regards. Thank you for sharing!

    • Fika really is the answer. America has terrible workers rights so it’s not a surprise employees are treated so badly there. But you might get a 15 minute break quicker than getting paid holiday leave

  8. I learned about fika a few years ago and was immediately fascinated. Scandinavian practices as a whole seem to be really appealing to me. I’ve always loved incorporating hygge into my lifestyle, which is Danish, and now I try to utilize fika as often as possible. The way that they approach life is really wonderful – purposeful, slow, and mindful.

  9. I’ve never heard of fika before. I have heard before that people are more productive by having regular breaks.
    I love the idea of having a cake or a pastry!

  10. This should be mandatory every ever. Unless we can spread siestas 🙂

    We don’t have it here in Estonia or anything similar. We do take breaks with coffee and snack but mostly by ourselves not with whole team.

    In our company we celebrate birthdays with small snack table and some drinks (non alcoholic) and I have noticed that the period when we have more birthdays and therefor gatherings around table with some chat does improve overall atmosphere and communication in the office.

    Sadly boss sees them mostly as expense and time when noone works. I am trying to turn his beliefs.

    • I could certainly get behind the introduction of a siesta. It’s a shame that bosses don’t value the wellbeing of their team, instead being blinded by work above all else

  11. I love that you shared about fika! My university for my master’s program was in Sweden and every semester I had to go to Sweden for a week of classes. It was there that I had fika for the first time, and it was so nice to take a break before our next class. We were able to socialize with everyone and have delicious pastries and tea!

    If you are interested, here is my post on fika: https://talesofbelle.com/2019/03/07/fika-the-swedish-coffee-break/

  12. I love the idea of this concept! I am guilty of working through my lunch breaks and ultimately never scheduling a break throughout the day. I’m on the fast track to burnout, as we speak. I work from home so the possibility of introducing fika to my lifestyle is slim, primarily because I care for my daughter too so it is difficult to meet up with friends. But it is definitely something to consider once my little one is older. Thank you for sharing!

  13. What a cool and interesting concept. I love how you can’t do fika on your own and somehow enables you to interact with other people. I wish schools/offices would implement this.

    lifebeginsattwenty.com

  14. It strikes me that the perfect working day would include morning and afternoon fika, and a French-style lunch break. When I worked in Paris for a few days on a project and encountered the French lunch, this was held over a period of about 2 hours and always involved wine with endless conversation. I’m certain that a happier and more productive workforce would be the outcome of such arrangements. As well as great networking 🙂

  15. This is such a interesting post! I’ve never heard of Fika before but after reading this, I’m all clued up and wanting to have a Fika of my own. Such a interesting concept. Thank you for educating me on this, I throughly enjoyed reading this post Xo

    Elle – ellegracedeveson.com

  16. I so love your humorous wrap up sentence: “to fika or not to fika, that is the question”. What a fun way of putting it!
    The concept of fika is not a reason to dash away for one’s daily caffeine fix really appeals to me; I love that the concept is more about actually intentionally slowing down and interacting with one’s fellow humans in a fun and positive environment. We can all benefit from that!
    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  17. Another excellent post. I honestly never heard of the term “fika” before. I agree including breaks especially one like this will have a better impact in productivity and participation. Thank you for sharing this post. ?

    Pastor Natalie (ExamineThisMoment )
    Letstakeamoment.com

  18. Sounds a great idea. Concepts like Fika are fascinating and reflect society and how individuals are seen / treated. Can’t see this happening In the U.K. where zero hour contacts are becoming the norm

  19. I’m glad to see that this is something we already partially do in Italy. Sure it’s less organised than the fika and has no name other than “coffee break”, but I’m sure it’s the reason why it never bothered me to go to the office before the pandemic. Working from home is comfortable but in the long run it can alienate you.

  20. This is the first time I’m hearing about fika, but I’m all for it! I need a lot of fika throughout my day! Hers too more fika!

  21. Never heard of the term Fika, but I read that in Spain there is a similar break where businesses are closed for a few hours for lunch and rest. If FIKA can be implemented here in the US, we will have a better work environment. I agree with your suggestion, maybe employers should replace some of the unproductive meetings with Fika.

    • As much as I’d love a siesta, as I tend to get really tired and black out in the afternoons, I doubt businesses would give us such a long break. Fikas might be our best compromise

  22. What a brilliant concept! You’re so right that after a break, you feel more productive. I used to work in a call centre and we weren’t allowed to take breaks, however, when I moved away from my desk and had a chat to a colleague I would always head back to my desk in a much better mood and found myself to be more productive. The Fika idea though sounds amazing. Getting together with some colleagues and chatting about anything other than work, having a coffee and cake sounds great to me. You’d think if it boosts moral, then it’s better for everyone, but many bosses are so short sighted.

    • You really need breaks if you’re working in a call centre. That kind of work can be soul destroying. But like you said, bosses doesn’t don’t factor in staff wellbeing and productivity into the equation. They have a black and white view that often results in high staff turnover and a lowering of productivity and standards

  23. I love this concept although I don’t drink coffee lol, my drink of choice would probably be tea. Bring on all the pastries though ?great written post

  24. Love this idea – incorporating some social support into your coffee breaks!

    The thing I miss most about my office job were the coffee and snack breaks with coworkers

  25. Here are some pointers: 1. Look after yourself 2. Embrace nature 3. Create a safe haven at home 4. Invest in friendships 5. Consider happiness to be a long-term objective.

Leave a Reply