When I left Sweden for London almost 12 years ago I also left behind a lot of things that I really love. Friends and family aside, I left 'mosbricka' at one o'clock in the morning, grillchips with dip at fredagsmys, Eurovision hysteria and a lot of fairly fabulous employment rights. And perhaps the hardest one of all – I left behind fika.
I tried to adapt. Instead of fika I embraced after work pints, boozy brunches and Pimm's-filled park hangs. I became a little English (and a little alcoholic?). But the sacred, coffee-fuelled fika break was harder than I imagined to shake off. I missed it dearly.
Then, eight months ago, I joined a company called Hubble. Being a company with the vision to enable people to love where they work through matching businesses with really cool office space, we constantly talk about what makes employees happy at work. During one of these conversations it appeared to me – what about fika? I knew fika used to make me happier at work in Sweden, would it also work in England?
In the beginning I kept it quiet. After all, suggesting to your employer to give the whole company 30 minutes' extra paid break time per day takes some guts – especially when such an idea is completely alien.
Then, I started gathering ammunition. I read every single research piece and study I could find about fika and its impact on employees' well-being and work productivity. I looked outside Sweden at similar things, and discovered Alex Pentland's study on the positive benefits of short, regular staff breaks.
Finally, loaded with confidence that this was a great idea to introduce at Hubble, I gathered the senior management and did my pitch. I don't know what I had expected, but after ten minutes of me talking nonstop every single person in the room was smiling. “Sure, let's try it,” was the answer I was given. “You get two weeks to run a trial.”
Only Swedes will understand the satisfaction.
The following Monday I announced the start of fika to the rest of the business in our morning meeting. I set a reminder for 3.30pm in everyone's calendar and even made a spreadsheet of cake responsibilities (might have overdone that a bit…). And so it started. In the beginning I was the driving force urging people to get up and join in. But it didn't take long until my role as initiator was superfluous. Suddenly my colleagues were the ones driving the ship. “Isn't it fika soon?” became the most asked question each day.
On the last day of the trial period I sent out a survey to everyone in the business asking how they had found fika. The results were crystal clear – every single person loved it.
The main reason given was that it brought the team closer together and allowed us to get to know each other better in a relaxed environment. Additionally, many found that their energy levels were better in the afternoons which led to better productivity. In just two weeks we became less tired, more productive and a tighter team. And maybe a little fatter, thanks to that spreadsheet.
With these overwhelmingly positive results, there was no question about it – fika was here to stay. That was two months ago, and fika has now become an integral part of our company culture. We don't just enjoy fika, we are proud of fika.
So to all you Londonswedes, UK-Swedes or general scandophiles out there – I say go for it. Here's some research for you to quote, now go out and make fika happen at your place of work.
Hanna Månsson is a Sweden-born, London-based digital marketer, writer and filmmaker. Together with fellow Swede Evy Samuelsson she forms the feminist media production duo 'Linnea&Lovisa'. Follow her on Twitter.