I Fika, You Fika, We All Fika---the Scandinavian Commitment to Coffee Breaks

 In 1955, there was a Supreme Court case, U.S. vs Greinetz of Los Wigwam Weavers (a tie factory in Denver), in which workers fought for and were granted the right to drink coffee at work.  

Los Wigam’s owner, Phil Greinetz, maintained that workers should not be able to take coffee breaks. He considered it slacking off. But the U.S. Department of Labor intervened, saying that employers MUST allow and support coffee breaks, because coffee is inextricably linked with increased productivity.

In contrast to the American experience, employees in Sweden are STRONGLY encouraged to take 2 fika (coffee-drinking get-togethers) breaks per day at work. They also fika at a nice cadence outside of work. Fika (both the noun and verb) is based on three basic foundations: coffee, fikabrod (pastries), and conversation.

If I were visiting Sweden, although I know that English is widely spoken, I would master this sentence: En kopp caffe, tack! – A cup of coffee, please!

Generally, fika occurs at 10 am and 3 pm for 10 to 30 minutes. The specific terms for these fika breaks at work are fikarast or fikapaus. Bosses like it when employees show up--- and note that conversation is generally NOT focused on politics or other stressful topics. The goal is to laugh, hang out together, eat sweets, and drink coffee.

Fika is associated with higher levels of productivity, lower levels of burnout, and a strong sense of camaraderie in the office.

So before we say goodbye, let me ask you: Ska vi ses över en fika någon gång? – Shall we have a coffee together some time?






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