Can Small Businesses Embrace Hygge?

Posted: 13th February 2017

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By: Kay Heald

Can Small Businesses Embrace Hygge?

February might traditionally be associated with red roses and hearts, but maybe this year workplaces can give their employees the gift of Hygge (a Danish concept, pronounced hoo-gah) to help create more harmony and wellbeing!
So what is ‘Hygge’?

Hygge caught the imagination of the UK papers and magazines last year, appearing in articles from The Guardian to Elle. If you look on Amazon, you will see a dizzying array of ‘hygge’ inspired books, alongside ones for mindfulness and wellbeing.

Hygge definitions vary, because there isn’t a word that directly translates from the Danish, but ‘an all-encompassing sense of comfort and wellbeing’, seems to be about the closest we can manage in the English language.

But what is the relevance of Hygge to small businesses?

The health and wellbeing of employees is becoming increasingly relevant to employers, as more days are being lost through stress than ever before. According to the HSE http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/dayslost.htm 2016 figures, 11.7 million work days were lost through ill health associated with mental health issues of stress, anxiety and depression. This is now a bigger cause for absence in the UK than musculoskeletal disorders.

National and world events such as the uncertainties around Brexit and the new US government have further fuelled feelings of uncertainty and nervousness around people’s job security and livelihoods.

The businesses that take on the challenge of supporting their staff by creating work environments that are people-friendly, collaborative and energising, will reap the rewards of healthier and more engaged staff, which ultimately will lead to increases in productivity and the bottom line.

Hygge has traditionally been applied to the home, to engender feelings of calm, warmth and happiness. However, Marie Tourell Søderberg who wrote Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness, believes the concept has far wider applications. Here are some workplace ideas based on her suggestions, but please do bear in mind basic health and safety considerations:

  • Allow employees to personalise workspaces such as with photos and favourite mugs.
  • Include plants and greenery or green corners in workspaces
  • Encourage employees to take proper lunch breaks and change their scenery, preferably taking breaks outdoors
  • Reassess office lighting to counteract harsh fluorescent overhead sources, by adding portable softer lighting (probably not candles!)
  • Reassess office heating, as rarely does one temperature suit all workers and all job functions all the time
  • Make kitchen and refreshment areas pleasant and welcoming, to encourage healthy breaks
  • Create varied work areas that encourage movement between different activities
  • In busy or noisy environments, let people use headphones and listen to their music if they need to concentrate on tasks
  • Organise team-building activities for colleagues to get to know each other

Treating people as humans rather than just resources (or as my good friend Jen Hawkins of Revive says “Human beings, rather than Human doings”), has to make business sense. So perhaps rather than just adopting Hygge, employers should also be aiming for Arbejdsglaede, which, in case you are wondering, is Danish for ‘happiness at work’?