Why a Fika Is the Swedish Custom Every Ad Agency Should Import
It's no secret that tons of Swedes are making it big in the ad industry, but who knew the secret to their success is topped with pearled sugar and whipped cream? Yes, seriously.
Take a short break, leave your desk and pour a cup of joe while two Swedish aliens working at an American advertising agency explain how Fika [fee:kah] unlocks creativity and collaboration at work.
What is Fika?
To start, Fika means taking a couple of minutes with friends and colleagues in the middle of the day to share a cup of coffee (or tea) and a little something sweet to eat.
It's hardly news to anyone that taking breaks in the middle of the workday boosts performance and productivity. And as Americans start thinking about returning to the office, now is the perfect time to introduce new measures (even small ones like Fika) to boost morale.
"Fika" is more than a cliché or goofy gimmick for Swedes to hang their hat on. In Sweden, canceling it would most likely result in nationwide strikes and mass resignations. In addition to being hardwired into Swedish work culture, Fika may very well be one of the reasons why those small Scandinavian agencies bring home an unproportional amount of awards.
Here's how your agency can adopt a Fika, unlock new creativity and collaboration and nail the next pitch:
Small indulgences provide a reprieve from the workday.
Our brains need to recover from hours of staring at a screen, and every Swede knows that only a mad person would eat a kanelbulle [kah-kneel-bull-e—a cinnamon bun] in a rush. You slowly unroll it, working your way into the juicy core to let the sweet cinnamon tickle your taste buds. It should take a couple of minutes to eat it correctly, just as it should take a moment to make your work break worthwhile.
No, you didn't just waste a bunch of time because when you eventually do return to your desk, you'll find yourself filled with new ideas that not even the stickiest of fingers can withhold.
Fika creates a level playing field for participation.
Everyone's equal in the Fika-room. In Sweden, it's very common to have a rolling schedule of whose turn it is to bring something sweet for the Fika break. Being busy or being the boss is not an excuse for forgetting the pastries at home, and you shouldn't dare take the last cookie from the box. Everyone gets one cookie each, period. It's better to leave the last one untouched until someone throws it away a couple of days later.
This is where juniors and managers meet over a box of homemade drömmar [dr-uhm-mar—dream cookies], bonding over anything from vacation plans to ongoing kitchen renovations. You'll see that it's so much easier to find patience waiting for late feedback when you know your creative director is struggling with a rebellious teenager at home.
Ceremonial breaks lead to much-needed celebrations.
Agency life is a roller coaster that we spend most of our waking hours on. It's easy to forget the positives when juggling negative clients, stressful pitches and unwritten peer reviews.
That said, no success is ever forgotten in the Fika-room. This is where the whole agency comes together to feast on prinsesstårta [prins-sess-tore-ta—princess cake) and champagne. Skål [cheers]!
Try a Fika (or anything that lets you hit the pause button).
Congratulations, we've just taken a Fika together! And as you get back to work, consider making these breaks a part of your daily routine.
It's time we start implementing some healthy habits in our industry, and if sweets are the way, so be it. And as we return back to the office with sweet cinnamon and nutmeg on our breath, we'll make sure to encourage our colleagues to take a healthy break and enjoy the freshly baked cinnamon buns in the kitchen.