SWEDEN HAS A CAFFEINATED SECRET TO HAPPINESS AT WORK | Kanebridge News
Share Button

SWEDEN HAS A CAFFEINATED SECRET TO HAPPINESS AT WORK

Workers and bosses alike are trying to figure out ways to reinvigorate work life. Could a cherished Swedish coffee ritual be the answer?

By ANNE MARIE CHAKER
Wed, Feb 7, 2024 2:24pmGrey Clock 4 min

Would work be better if we all took a collective coffee break?

Workers in Sweden certainly think so. There, work life has long revolved around fika, a once- or twice-a-day ritual in which colleagues put away phones, laptops and any shoptalk to commune over coffee, pastries or other snacks. Swedish employees and their managers say the cultural tradition helps drive employee well-being, productivity and innovation by clearing the mind and fostering togetherness.

Now, as bosses and workers elsewhere try to reinvigorate office life and flagging job satisfaction, fika fascination is seeping into other workplaces.

The Grand, a New York-based career and leadership coaching platform, summons its all-remote staff of 10 every other Friday for coffee and conversation over Zoom. London-based Hubble, a website for finding flexible workspaces, took up the tradition after being introduced to it by a Swedish staff member.

“Everyone has an excuse to log off and let their hair down,” said Tushar Agarwal, chief executive of Hubble, where staff gather the last Thursday of every month for baked goods, chitchat and, of course, coffee.

A recent product offering—for part-time office space with new contract terms—sprang from a discussion that took place during fika, says chief of staff Charlie Bastier. It’s now one of the fastest-growing revenue streams, he says.

Not a Starbucks run

The pressure to make tweaks to the daily ritual is particularly acute in the U.S. Employees continue to report feeling less engaged in their jobs than in pre pandemic times, Gallup data show.

In addition, bonding with colleagues has become harder and less of a priority for many people in the hybrid world of work. Some employers worry the lack of social cohesion is harming company culture and operations.

At The Grand’s regular fika, staffers take turns hosting, leading with casual conversation or a board game such as Code Names or a drawing competition. The Grand’s co-founder Rei Wang says that fika allows her to spend time with her staff, making her a better leader.

“Learning more about their passions and their geniuses helps me understand and collaborate with them,” she says.

Pronounced “fee-kah,” the Swedish culture of breaking for coffee involves much more than a schlep to Starbucks. It’s meant to be a deliberate pause to provide space and time for people to connect. Many Swedish companies build a mandatory fika into the workday, while the Embassy of Sweden in Washington holds one for staff weekly. IKEA, promoting its Upphetta coffee maker on the corporate website, extols the virtues of fika: “When we disconnect for a short period, our productivity increases significantly.”

“Fika is where we talk life, we talk everything but work itself,” said Micael Dahlen, professor of well-being, welfare and happiness at the Stockholm School of Economics. The ritual helps drive trivsel, he says, a term that means a combination of workplace enjoyment and thriving. The concept is so fundamental to Swedish workplaces that many companies in Sweden have trivselcommittees, he said.

Dahlen said he suspects a pandemic-era drop in office fikas contributed to a sharp decline in Swedes’ happiness at work. Just over half of workers in Sweden reported a high level of job satisfaction in 2022, according to Eurostat, compared with 69.5% in 2017.

A productivity booster

There’s some evidence that communal coffee breaks help boost productivity. In a study of call centre workers at Bank of America, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that teams that scheduled 15-minute breaks together were 18% more communicative with one another through the workday than groups with staggered breaks.

Annual turnover, likewise, was 12% among teams that held collective coffee breaks versus 40% among other workers. In all, the teamwork fostered via the breaks led to an estimated $15 million in increased annual productivity, says lead researcher Ben Waber.

“People who are in a tight knit social group have higher levels of trust,” said Waber, who has since founded a behavioural analytics company called Humanyze.

Hubble employees take turns baking and get a stipend of about $20 for supplies for the company’s monthly fikas. Last week, 26 staff members gathered in a communal area away from desks and cubicles.

Kate Mehigan, an account manager, brought in homemade arancini balls and Eliot Dixon, an account team lead, laid out a Basque cheesecake from a recipe he’d found online. Some people played ping pong.

Fleur Sylvester, a Hubble account executive, used the time to quiz a colleague on training advice for running a half-marathon. Sylvester says when she joined the company over a year ago the gatherings were invaluable for helping put faces to names.

“You get an opportunity to speak to other team members that you don’t get to talk to on a day-to-day basis,” Sylvester said. “When you’re online you don’t get the opportunity to have those chats.”

Peter Linder, head of thought leadership in North America for Swedish telecom giant Ericsson, recently introduced the fika concept to Jason Inskeep, senior director at management consulting company Slalom. The two men had initially met on a joint panel discussion, and Linder wanted to congratulate Inskeep on his new job at Slalom. He sent Inskeep a Zoom invite for a 20-minute fika one-on-one.

“I didn’t know what it was,” Inskeep said.

The vibe of the midmorning conversation—which meandered from the future of artificial intelligence to Inskeep’s own feelings navigating a new company culture—was different from the usual business tête-à-têtehe said. Bouncing ideas back and forth in a relaxed way left him feeling energised the rest of the morning.

“It was a mix of coffee shop and barber shop,” he said.



MOST POPULAR

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

Related Stories
Money
Preparatory Work for UAE to Oman Hafeet Rail Project Commences at Full Speed
Money
BCG report ranks UAE’s Etisalat as fourth top value creator in global telecoms.
Money
USD 9.25 Million in Investments Committed to Start-ups during FinTech World Cup at Dubai FinTech Summit
Preparatory Work for UAE to Oman Hafeet Rail Project Commences at Full Speed

Preparations have begun on the transformative UAE to Oman Hafeet Rail network, revealing significant construction details during a site visit.

Thu, May 16, 2024 3 min

The $3bn Hafeet Rail project between the UAE and Oman will feature 60 bridges and a 2.5km tunnel, making it an “architectural and engineering marvel,” according to CEO Ahmed Al Musawa Al Hashemi.

Hafeet Rail has announced that preparatory work is moving full speed ahead for constructing the transformative railway link between the UAE and Oman. This announcement was made during a site visit attended by key officials, members of the Asyad and Hafeet Rail executive management teams, project contractors, and consultants.

Key Highlights

During the visit, attendees were introduced to the main components of the project, including passenger, repair, and shipping stations, as well as major bridges and tunnel sites.

The Hafeet Rail project is set to play a very important role in enhancing local and regional trade, unlocking new opportunities in the infrastructure, transportation, and logistics sectors, and fostering economic diversification. It will also strengthen bilateral relations between the UAE and Oman.

The project will involve constructing 60 bridges, some reaching heights of up to 34 meters, and tunnels extending 2.5 kilometres. The Hafeet Rail team showcased the latest rail technologies and innovative engineering and architectural solutions designed to navigate the challenging geographical terrain and weather conditions while maintaining high standards of efficiency and safety.

The rail network will boost various industrial sectors and economic activities and significantly impact the tourism industry by facilitating easier and faster travel between the two countries.

Ahmed Al Bulushi, Asyad Group Chief Executive Asset, noted that the project’s rapid progress reflects the commitment of the UAE and Oman to developing and realizing the project’s multifaceted benefits.

Investment and Future Impact

Al Bulushi added that investments in developing local capabilities and expertise in rail-related disciplines over recent years have enabled the project to reach the implementation phase successfully under the leadership of highly efficient and professional national talent.

Hafeet Rail’s CEO Ahmed Al Musawa Al Hashemi emphasized, “The commencement of preparatory works for construction is a testament to the robust synergy between all parties involved in both nations, achieving this milestone in record time. We are confidently laying down the right tracks thanks to the shareholders of Hafeet Rail and the expertise of local companies in Oman and the UAE, alongside international partners.”

During the site visit, the visitors explored some of the key preparatory sites, including Wadi Al Jizi, where a 700-meter-long bridge towering 34 meters will be constructed. This ambitious project is envisioned as an architectural and engineering marvel in a complex geographical landscape.

Future phases will require more collaboration, with a continued focus on quality, safety, and environmental considerations in line with the international industry best practices.

The Hafeet Rail project represents the first-of-its-kind railway network linking two Gulf nations, marking a significant shift in regional goods transportation. This efficient and reliable transportation option will reduce dependence on slower and less sustainable road transport.

Hafeet Rail promises a 40% reduction in shipping costs and a 50% in transit times compared to traditional land transportation methods, as it will be connecting five major ports and several industrial and free zones in both countries.

This shift will reduce reliance on road transport by cars and trucks and promote more sustainable shipping practices. The establishment of the railway network will also create significant opportunities for SMEs in construction, engineering, and logistics support, acting as a catalyst for economic growth and innovation within the domestic economy.

By linking major ports, the Hafeet Rail project will enable local SMEs to import, export, and distribute their products more effectively, enhancing their market reach and global competitiveness.

MOST POPULAR

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

0
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop