Hygge (pronounced ‘hue-gah’) is the cosy Danish concept that’s taken the UK by storm, with flickering candles, cashmere blankets, mugs of tea, and woolly socks dominating our homes and our Pinterest boards.
“You experience it when you are able to be fully present in the moment, and feel content and at ease. Hygge often happens when you are together with the people closest to you, your nearest and dearest; people with whom you can be open and sincere with, where you don't have to pretend to be anything besides who you are.”
While many of us have started incorporating those hygge-feelings of warmth, happiness, and shelter into our homes, it can be difficult to do the same at work.
Which, considering the fact that we spend, on average, over 40 hours in the office each week, seems a shame.
Hygge is for everyone, whoever you are, wherever you are
However Søderberg insists that we can embrace the Danish concept of cosiness in the workplace; after all, “hygge is for everyone, whoever you are, wherever you are.”
So how can we inject some hygge into our own workplace?
Søderberg shares her top tips below…
How to embrace hygge in the workplace
1. Make your desk your own
Hygge is all about enjoying the environment around you, and transforming personal spaces into little sanctuaries which allow us to sink into them at any moment.
As such, Søderberg suggests that we personalise our offices as much as possible, placing an emphasis on items which allow us to ‘escape’ the daily grind of the everyday, and take time to revel in the tiny moments that make you smile and uplift the soul.
“Bringing photos, clippings, a favourite mug from home or a fun comic is a great way to add personality to our workspace,” she says. “Many workplaces are designed in a very practical and streamlined way, but to get some hygge it helps to add personality.”
2. Bring the outdoors in with you
Hygge doesn’t just apply to cosy indoor dwellings; we can also generate feelings of hygge by heading outdoors for a long walk, foraging for natural berries, and enjoying the fresh air against our skin.
Søderberg points out that having a plant to look after can help to recreate all of those happy vibes we get from being outdoors, adding that they can have a surprisingly powerful effect on your mood at work.
“My wardrobe lacked a little life, so I brought some plants to give it a little spark,” she tells us. “I was inspired by interior design expert, Christina b. Kjeldsen, who suggests gathering a couple of plants, so you have a beautifully green corner to rest your eyes on.
Read more: Here's why you should try an office plant
“I brought a small, colourful and inexpensive oxalis and a little cactus with a beautiful purple flower. They don't require much care, but are colourful and welcoming. When I come to work and start dressing up and doing my makeup I always give the oxalis a little water and it has become a hyggelig part of my routine before the show.”
3. Make the most of your lunchtimes
Don’t spend your lunchbreak sat at your desk; wrap up warm and head outdoors to pick up some food, run some errands, go for a walk, or simply grab a book and find a quiet spot to read.
4. Adapt your office lighting
“I need good light when doing my makeup, so the wardrobe mirror has bulbs around it. But I also have a good reading lamp on the table, where I can sit reading my script,” explains Søderberg.
“To make the lighting hyggelig it is important to have several lamps with warm, slightly orange, light around the room, making pools of light - small light caves where you can immerse yourself in your work.
“A good working lamp on the table would be a lamp where the shade covers the bulb so the light falls directly onto the papers and work on the table, and doesn't shine directly into the eyes, which is neither good for the concentration and nor for the hygge.”
Read more: How to live Nordicly
If your office allows candles, it’s also worth investing in a good scented one.
“There is a lot of hygge in candle light, so I have brought one with me to the theatre for when I sit down to get ready,” says Søderberg.
“The action of lighting it makes me aware of the moment in a special way. It is a way to send myself a signal that now it is time to work in a hyggelig way.”
5. Keep extra layers at work
As the colder months settle in, and as battles over the air conditioning rage on, it’s a good idea to store some cosy layers at work. This could be a cashmere jumper, a colourful scarf, a spare pair of socks (perfect for when the rain soaks your shoes right through), or a cuddly cape cardigan – the closest we can get to snuggling down into a blanket at work.
6. Take a break
Making a conscious effort to stop work for a moment, even if it’s just to make a cup of tea in your special mug, is crucial to a hyggelig workplace. Keep a stash of your favourite teabags in your drawer, and make sure you use them.
7. Don’t sit in one place
You don’t have to stay chained to your desk all day long; Søderberg suggests being creative with your work space, so that you move around for different activities.
She explains: “The most hyggelig thing in my wardrobe are the two sofas in the end of the room that always invite me to sit down and get cosy while I read a script by myself, or whilst rehearsing lines and discussing the text together with one of my colleagues.
Read more: The Danish way of life
“If your office has room for a sofa or soft armchair to throw yourself into, it can be a good alternative to sitting still at the table.
“It often makes the working day more hyggelig to read emails, write a to-do list or call someone while drinking a cup of tea in the sofa.”
8. Make an office playlist
Listening to music keeps things from feeling too soulless or quiet; whether it’s having everyone in the office agree on a radio station, or popping on your headphones and tuning into something soothing, music is key to a good hyggelig environment.
Try to choose songs that conjure up feelings of warmth and intimacy wherever possible. Some suggestions include Mumford & Sons’ I Will Wait, Radiohead’s Everything In Its Right Place, or Touch The Sky by Julie Fowlis.
9. Focus on finding happiness at work
Hygge is already in our dictionaries, but it’s worth adding another strictly Danish word to your repertoire; arbejdsglæde. Arbejde means work and glæde means happiness, so arbejdsglæde is "happiness at work."
In Denmark and other Scandinavian countries, a job isn’t just a way to get paid – they fully expect to have a high level of job satisfaction and happiness, too.
This can be achieved through flexible working hours, or great employee benefits, or regular training (Danes love to push themselves to learn new things), or through bosses issuing fewer direct orders (they prefer workers to feel empowered).
Read more: The most stylish hygge buys for Autumn 2016
However, if this isn’t something that’s available at your office, you can always find your own arbejdsglæde by praising the people around you, by performing random acts of workplace kindness, by taking a regular dose of me-time each day, and by keeping fruit on your desk to nibble throughout the day.
10. Bond with your colleagues
“Hygge is the feeling of being seen and recognised - and to be surrounded by the familiar and well known,” says Søderberg – which is why forging relationships with your colleagues is so important.
Whether it’s offering to make everyone a cup of tea, asking them about their day, arranging regular one-on-one feedback sessions, or suggesting unusual meeting locations (try a walk-and-talk, or take everyone outside for a stand-up).
You could also organise a fun activity for you all to try together, such as visiting a local café together at lunchtime, or grabbing drinks at the pub after work.
“Grab a beer after work, let the masks fall, and hygge together,” suggests Søderberg.
However your fun doesn’t have to be restricted to outside the office; you could also organise a sweepstake, take an hour out to play a team boardgame, try meditation sessions at lunchtime, or simply sit down together for a cosy chat over a cuppa and some biscuits.
You could even organise a tasty food rota, with people taking it in turns to bring in homemade cakes or soup for the office.
Whatever you decide, it’s worth taking the plunge; after all, there is nothing more hyggelig than making time for people.
Hygge, The Danish Art of Happiness by Marie Tourell Søderberg covers hygge in all aspects of everyday life, from home interiors, to recipes, to the workplace.