Hygge: This Danish Concept Will Transform the Way You Work

February 17, 2020
Image: iStock/Drazen_

We’ve all had days when arriving to work can feel like stepping into the void.

In Australia, over 50% of employees believe their workplace is not a mentally healthy place to be in, whilst we know that the wellness of a workplace can be directly linked to a company’s performance over time.

The thing is, workspaces aren’t necessarily designed for positive feelings such as comfort and warmth. They’re designed for getting work done.

But what if we told you the two didn’t have to be mutually exclusive?

Introducing: hygge. It’s that Danish word that we shy away from trying to pronounce (read: “hue-gah”). Once you know about hygge, you won’t just be integrating it into your workday for improved wellness — but all aspects of life.

CEO of Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, Meik Wiking wrote a whole book on it. He defines hygge as “everything from the art of creating intimacy to cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things”.

There really isn’t a clear English translation, but you get the idea. It’s found somewhere in the intersection between comfort, togetherness and nature. There’s a bit of mindfulness in there. Lots of design. The only way we can really understand what hygge is — is, well, to experience it.

Here are six key ways to make your work day more hyggeligt.

1. Hygge the senses

Warm drinks, calming smells, cosy clothes — all of these can have a big difference on how comfortable we feel at work.

No matter what the season, if our sensory input is optimised for ease and we don’t have that clinical office smell stealing our attention, we’re going to get better work done.

Likewise, studies have shown that stimulating the senses can have a significant impact on our memory retention and creativity.

So next time you’re trying to memorise that big pitch, why don’t you light a scented candle or listen to some Baroque music and see what happens?

2. Design everything

If there’s anything the Danes are known for it’s design. They fill their spaces with things that are functional and yet beautiful — creating spaces to be proud of, ones we can be comfortable in.

Be intentional about the way you create your work environment. Make it beautiful, and getting the lighting just right to dramatically change your engagement.

Or alternatively, you could minimise the amount of technology in your day — bringing in well-designed stationery to create a sense of focus and craft.

3. Bring nature into your day

Sometimes when working, especially in cities, we can feel detached from nature which can have a big affect on our wellbeing.

Studies have shown that the presence of plants in a workspace can increase employee happiness by over 20%.

Likewise, getting some natural light — be it from a window space or going outdoors for your lunch break — can be a vital addition to your day.

Go out, slow down, breathe, appreciate the seasons and be mindful — all hyggeligt things.

4. Ride to work, the Danish way

In Copenhagen, over 60% of all trips to work happen on a bicycle. It’s healthy, it’s sustainable, it’s hip — and it’s hygge.

In any weather, the Danish ride, and often can be found appreciating a cup of warm coco when they make it to work. Being exposed to the elements means feeling more alive, and incorporating exercise into your daily commute makes for a generally more active lifestyle — which will benefit anyone’s ability to get good work done.

5. Hygge the hierarchy

A key feature of hygge is a sense of togetherness, achieved through authentic and close relationships.

According to the Harvard Business Review, close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by up to 50%. Having respect for your coworkers and employees is important, but having an authentic and meaningful relationship with them — without status getting in the way — can make a world of difference to the culture and dynamics at work. Foster a sense of community by ditching the negative aspects of competition and hierarchy.

6. Find personal space

Sometimes we just need a bit of personal space to get comfortable enough for deep work. Studies have shown that if there’s no space for quietness within the open plan office, employees experience less satisfaction, collaboration and also negative stress.

Hygge at work can mean having space for oneself to get cosy, connected and creative. To truly connect to the work that you’re doing and do it with care.

Here at Nook, we’re busy addressing tip no. 6 — creating personal space for everyone within the open office. Follow us to find out more about how we can help you to make space for hygge in your workplace.

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