Businesses worldwide are increasingly turning their attention to workplace wellness, and the benefits associated with a healthy and engaged workforce.
Research shows that over half (53%) of organisations in the UK now have a stand-alone wellbeing strategy, and with the success of Scandinavia’s work wellbeing schemes — from generous parental leave and wellness allowances, to the Swedish tradition of ‘fika’ — there’s plenty of inspiration to guide our strategies. It’s exciting to see what innovations and wellbeing concepts may filter through.
In Sweden and other Scandinavian countries, fika — the simple act of taking a break to have a coffee and meaningful social interaction — is a cultural practice that’s been gaining momentum in recent years. More than just a coffee and pastry break; it’s a cornerstone of workplace culture.
Anna Brones, author of Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, reveals a lot of offices in Sweden now have a ‘fika room’ – essentially a designated break room in the workplace. The key point is that coffee isn’t consumed in a takeaway cup over the computer; “it’s a time to step away from work and converse with colleagues.” This, she says, gives people the chance to check out mentally from work for a few minutes, and return refreshed.
Regular pauses throughout the day are seen as essential to maintaining focus and fostering a sense of community. This intentional break from work contributes to higher job satisfaction, reduced stress levels, and improved wellbeing among employees.
Could the UK, with its fast-paced work environment and emphasis on productivity, benefit from adopting a more holistic approach to employee wellbeing, and integrating a fika practice?
Research shows that encouraging short breaks for relaxation and social interaction has the potential to rejuvenate the workforce, and increase efficiency and contentment. Interestingly, the way we take our breaks has implications; timing and duration being key factors in the break’s ‘effectiveness’. Shorter breaks are more impactful in the morning, according to research, with longer ones more beneficial in the afternoon.
How can managers encourage fika breaks?
Leaders can set a positive example, taking moments out of the day themselves, encouraging others, scheduling them in, and setting clear boundaries around interruptions. This can help deter potential guilt among employees and eliminate any stigma around break-taking.
The emphasis on collaboration and open communication during fika is also more important than ever, with a shared commitment to equality and inclusivity. Fostering a wider mingling of employees from across the business, and opening up topics relevant to all groups, can contribute to a positive work environment and boost staff morale.
Scandinavian countries consistently rank high in global happiness and work-life balance indices, and it’s clear their workplace practices contribute in a significant way to overall societal wellbeing. As the UK grapples with concerns over burnout and high turnover rates, integrating aspects of the fika philosophy may offer a solution.
ITN Business will showcase how HR professionals can stay ahead of the curve and adapt to the latest developments across the employment field, in ‘The Future of Work: People, Culture and Tech’.