Do we need a little hygge?

It’s no secret that I have a fascination with all things Scandinavian. My wall of inspiration even features The Bridge’s enigmatic Saga Noren and Borgen’s charismatic Birgitte Nyborg. I first heard about the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced ‘hoo-ga’) a couple of years ago and have been bookmarking articles about it ever since. Difficult to translate into English in just one word, the most often used words are ‘cosiness’, ‘warmth’ and ‘togetherness’. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall talked about it on Scandimania recently and it seemed to reinforce the fact that hygge came about in your free time when you were relaxing with family and friends, or even alone.

However, it was only when I took the opportunity to talk to a Danish colleague, Annelise, that I actually understood that this was about more than log fires and candles. Annelise explained to me that hygge is a state of mind. ‘So does that mean’, I excitedly asked, ‘that we can have hygge at work?’ ‘Sure,’ she answered. Well, that was the best news I’d heard all week.

Work-life balance is an often discussed concept and personally I don’t believe it’s actually about the time we spend working vs. the time we spend living. I believe that it’s about our approach and our priorities. Some of the activities you do outside of your occupation involve work – it’s not all sitting on the sofa, eating handfuls of M&Ms whilst watching the slopestyle final! In the same way, I believe we can bring elements of our life to our work. We’re not machines, programmed to complete tasks in exactly the same way every time with no emotion. We’re complicated, creative, flawed, intriguing human beings engaging with other complicated, creative, flawed, intriguing human beings and I think a little hygge could go a long way.

So how can we create hygge in the workplace? As I understand it, it seems it doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. It seems to be about slowing down long enough to notice each other. It could be as simple as stopping typing and looking up from your monitor when your colleague arrives and just catching up with him for a few minutes. Perhaps it’s bringing in a batch of cupcakes for a team member’s birthday. Maybe it’s making a coffee together in the office kitchen. Perhaps it’s creating an environment where you can work hard but also enjoy that work and the time you spend with whoever you work alongside.

Most of all, it seems to be about stepping off the track for a minute and simply connecting with one another. When we do this, we can make the ordinary a little more extraordinary.

Today’s pebble for your thoughts: how can you create hygge where you are?

What do you think?

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?

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6 Responses to Do we need a little hygge?

  1. Greetings from Finland! That was a great post. It strikes me, that if we are to have the right work-life balance we need to make sure we have made plenty of time for hygge in our personal lives as well.

    Let’s catch up soon.


    Matthew Parker Director Print & Procurement 07939 583503

    • Terve, Matthew! Hope you’re having a successful time in beautiful Finland. Thanks for commenting: I agree with you that hygge’s needed in every aspect of our lives. Hope to see you soon!

  2. What a super blog, thanks Michelle. This reminds me of the Welsh word for cuddle, cwtch. I think it is how we get ‘all cutched up’ from. Sometimes we need a hygge AND a cwtch or is that too greedy…

  3. Pingback: Lagom – or are you expert enough? | Turning over pebbles

  4. Pingback: Hygge in the workplace | simpler ideas for a better life

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