For most people, coffee is a means to an end. A way of getting into overdrive to tackle a mile-long to-do list or an inbox bursting at the seams. This isn’t the case in Sweden. It’s Fika.
Swedes indulge in this ritual daily. Fika (pronounced “fee-kah”) doesn’t have a direct translation but refers to “a coffee break” – although it’s so much more than that. Ingrained in their culture, its an intentional pause in the day for networking and relaxation. We think it’s a routine we should all adopt, especially at work.
According to an article in the Atlantic, UK and US employees have reported historic levels of stress, distractions and feeling overworked. Sweden is considered one of the champions for a healthy work-life balance and despite swedes working harder and longer than previous generations, Fika has remained a strong pillar in the days and lives of its citizens.
What makes Fika so enjoyable to Swedes is the company and camaraderie of enjoying a coffee with friends or colleagues. It forms part of the social centre of Sweden, a moment of relaxation and no pressure.
The benefits of Fika
If you’re a knowledge worker, then you participate in “think-work” which means your prefrontal cortex – the thinking part of your brain – is constantly at work while you are. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for logical thinking, executive functioning, and using willpower to override impulses.
That’s a lot of brain work and its important to give yourself and your mind a break throughout the workday. Taking a break can help feel refreshed and ready to get back to work. Additional benefits of taking an intentional break from work include better connections, conversations, improved productivity and creativity when you’re back at your desk.
So take a page from our Nordic neighbours’ playbook and buffer that break into your daily routine. With every sip of coffee and great conversation you have during Fika, enjoy the productivity-boosting benefits the moment you head back to work feeling refreshed and caffeinated.