Fika – the art of Swedish coffee break

by Debbie Potts
30 August 2020

I’d like to let you in to a little secret on how you could boost your productivity with something called ‘fika’.

Fika (pronounced “fee-kah” for us non-Swedish speakers), is both a noun and a verb and doesn’t actually have a direct translation but it is basically “a coffee break”. In reality, fika is so much more than that. Allow me to explain.

When many of my colleagues are asked how they are feeling, they usually say that they are feeling overworked, being distracted with varying levels of stress, with self-care being low on their priority list. Sweden, on the other hand is considered to be on the forefront of promoting a healthy work-life balance. Apart from being a country with one of the most generous parental leave and heavily subsidised childcare, Sweden’s workers are guaranteed at least five weeks of time off and flexible working is completely normal in many companies. Despite this and even though Swede’s are working harder and longer than previous generations, their fika culture has remained a constant in their lives.

Fika is not an activity that they schedule on their calendars but is simply embedded in their culture and way of life. Fika is a deliberate pause during the day (or evening) to socialise and relax - a routine we should all adopt, especially at work. By the way, you can also fika alone.

Fika is a relaxed, no pressure expectations, time out with your colleagues, friends or family to enjoy a cup of coffee, tea or whatever your drink of choice may be, usually accompanied by a pastry of some sort (my favourites are cinnamon and cardamom buns). Fika usually takes place away from you desk and without any devices to avoid distraction. The benefits of fika result in better connections and conversations as well as improved productivity and creativity when you’re back at your desk.

During the pandemic, whilst working from home, I have used online fika to engage with colleagues and friends. Although this has had to be done in front of a computer screen, which was not ideal, it has still allowed me to down tools and take some time to chat with some of my network or get to know new connections by inviting them for an online fika.

So why not give it a try and since this may be a new concept for some, why not start by scheduling some time in your calendar and fika away!

Remember: the goal is to take an intentional break in your day to encourage you to relax your body, reset your mind, and socialise with others. The coffee and pastry is just a sweet bonus. 

(If you’re in London, New York or Stockholm, you’ve got to try Fabrique, the best Swedish bakery in town!)