Getting Hygge With It

I’m an avid reader. Sometimes, I read business books that make me think (like this one), other times, I read crime fiction for the escape from my everyday life (like this one), but most recently, I’ve been reading The Little Book of HyggeThe Danish Way to Live Well and it really struck a lovely chord with me.

What is Hygge?

In Danish, hygge (pronounced “hue-gah”), is difficult to define, as it describes more of a feeling than a “thing”. Here are some of the ways that hygge has been described:

  • “A cozy ambience accompanied by close friends and family”
  • “Making the ordinary extraordinary and the normal special”
  • “Like a hug without touching”
  • “A feeling of safety; a feeling of home”

The book is written by Meik Wiking, who is uniquely qualified, given that his day job is Chief Executive Officer of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen where he studies well-being, happiness and quality of life.

Another fun fact, the word “hygge” was a shortlisted word for the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year in 2016.

Reading this book got me thinking. While the holiday season is filled with the merry high of what is analogous to a sugar rush and all that is festive – with the parties, lights, decorations, food, and libations, I always find that once the holiday season is over, I inevitably experience the equivalent of a sugar crash. For me, January feels peppered with pressure – the holidays are over, it’s a new year, a new me, it’s an opportunity to set stretch goals and achieve greatness! And then the inevitable happens – I fall off my new year’s resolution wagon, the winter blues set in, and I often feel drained. I’m not the only one who feels this way – the third Monday of January is known as “Blue Monday”, affectionately known as the ‘most depressing day of the year’ (something to look forward to, am I right?). Blue Monday is based on a mathematical equation and according to Wikipedia, “the formula uses many factors, including: weather conditions, debt level (i.e. when your VISA bill arrives and all your holiday spending becomes a terrifying reality), time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and feeling of a need to take action”.

So, I’ve been thinking about ways that I can incorporate hygge into my work life, in hopes that they might just help to hold off some of those winter blues. Here are a few ideas that I came up with:

  1. Bring some cozy to work. I’m not suggesting that you show up to work in a onesie, but bring something that gives you that extra cozy feeling at work. It could be slippers to wear while you work at your desk, your favourite mug and box of tea or a blanket scarf to wrap yourself up in.
  2. Host a pot-luck lunch with your co-workers. Think winter stews, creamy soups and spicy curries – comfort food galore.   Food is central to living a hygge life, and what could be better than cooking for and eating with your co-workers? Get creative, incorporate themes – for example, everyone brings in their favourite dish or a dish from their culture, and do your very best not to talk about work. I know it’s tempting to talk about the latest project, but the “work itself” shouldn’t be all that you have in common with your co-workers. You were all hired for a reason – you each bring skills, experience and shared values, so get to know each other on a personal level. Ask people questions like: “What’s something that very few people know about you?” You’ll be surprised by the answers – trust me 🙂
  3. Adopt a “giving” mentality. Remember the old adage “it’s better to give than to receive”? We all know the feeling of intense delight that you get when you surprise someone that you care about with the perfect gift – it’s priceless. Because it’s not about the gift itself, it’s about the thoughtfulness and care behind it. If you have a co-worker that is feeling stressed (about work, about home, or something else), do something small and thoughtful to remind them that they are cared for, that they’re not alone and that this too, shall pass. Something small can be writing them a thoughtful note, packing them a lunch (because they never have time to go out and grab something), baking them some cookies or buying them some anti-stress essential oils. Remember, it’s not what you do, it’s that you do it at all.
  4. Bring some happiness into the workspace. Add some colour, inject some personality by decorating your cages (oops! I meant cubicles!) with photos, twinkle lights and inspirational quotes, post your company values proudly on the wall, add a green space or some plants, have some light music playing in the background, replace the unforgiving florescent lights with some floor lamps, bring in some healthy snacks (or even better, some not so healthy snacks!) – the ideas are endless.
  5. Rethink meetings. Meetings are an essential part of work, but make sure that you include the right people at the right time. It’s a well-known fact that smaller meetings yield more meaningful dialogue, more productive outcomes and greater cohesion and collaboration. If you have a standing weekly meeting, at the top of the meeting, take the first few minutes to go around the table and ask everyone what their “high and low” for the past week has been. I play this game with my six-year old niece and it really gives me insight into what brings her joy, and what she’s struggling with. In the same way, when employees share their “highs”, it’s an opportunity to give meaningful recognition and celebrate their successes, and when employees share their “lows”, it’s an opportunity to offer support, help and resources in areas that they’re struggling.

So, there you have it, a few ideas to hygge-fy your workplace!

Interested in further discussing ideas of how you can create a positive corporate culture? Salopek & Associates is available to support organizations across Canada in fostering workplaces and implementing people practices that help attract, retain and engage employees. Contact us to chat about your corporate culture goals, and learn how we can support your organization in its journey to hygge!

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