When I was a PA many years ago in the early 90s at Marks and Spencer head office, everyone took a coffee break in the morning and a tea break in the afternoon. If someone internal rang up and asked for one of my department, I would say “they’ve just gone to coffee, back in 20 minutes”, the caller would understand and they’d ring back later. If someone external rang up, they really wouldn’t know what we meant and would think it odd and quite amusing.
But it wasn’t odd, it was the culture of M&S at the time.
We would meet up with our friends in the large staff restaurant for 20 minutes of downtime (admittedly fuelled on by M&S cakes and doughnuts!) and discuss work or what we saw on tv last night (no internet back then). We would then return to our desks rested and recharged.
I’ve no idea if this happens now, and it certainly didn’t occur in any other company at which I worked. Yet this custom is precisely what the Swedes value as an important part of their day. And as is the way with Scandinavian rituals, the Swedish have a word for it – fika.
The Swedes recognise fika as being important for their wellbeing, a chance to down tools and take some time out, away from whatever they are doing. Fika may be for 10 minutes or it could be longer, all morning if you like!. Anna Brones author of “Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break” writes that “Fika factors into travel planning, work schedules, and even a relaxed weekend at home. Life without fika is unthinkable”.
Wherever you work in an office, at home, in a team or as a freelancer, it’s important to step away from the PC or whatever work you are doing and relax for a short while with a cuppa. Get outside for some fresh air if possible and try to avoid swapping the laptop for Facebook on your phone (you’ll get far too distracted anyway). By the way, did you know that looking at something green is very relaxing for the eyes so a good reason to get outside.
Even if you only manage 10 minutes, you will return to your work feeling refreshed and revitalised. Your eyes will be rested, the eye muscles will relax meaning less chance of headaches. Your mind will be calmed and that brief break may be all you need to find the inspiration you’ve been searching for. Sitting down all day is not good for the posture anyway, so get up and walk around, coffee in hand and stretch your legs.
Right, I’m off to fika. Who is joining me?