Hygge – what is it & how can it boost productivity at work?

Just like every year, the chilly fall weather has once again arrived in town. It’s during days like these when it’s often too easy to fall victim to laziness and melancholia-induced apathy. 

This, in turn, is bound to have a negative effect on every field of life, one of the prime examples being the professional environment. With anxiety and demotivation on the rise, down goes productivity, creativity and enthusiasm. Needless to say – this makes our work performance suffer big time. 

Obviously, this is no way to proceed through the season. But – is there any way to make the latter part of the year more bearable? Turns out there really is one, and it has a lot to do with the setting around you. It also has a whole lot to do with Danes.

Grab your cup of hot cocoa and settle into your cosy reading den. The remedy for autumn blues and lackluster delivery at work is laid out in the following paragraphs!

It’s all about reclaimed wood. And harmony

Originating from Danish, the word “hygge” has become somewhat of the new buzzword for the autumn season. However, despite the widespread acceptance it has seen during the last couple of years, the term remains surprisingly vague in its meaning. 

One of the many Pinterest-favourites, “hygge” is often used to describe a certain aesthetic which is mostly used to convey a certain mood or a set of different, conceptually related ideas. Pronounced either as hue-guh or hoo-ga, depending on the person you’re talking to, the term still has no clearly defined dictionary entry

Small fact – #hygge to this date has been used in more than 4 million posts on Instagram. 

The closest one has got to pinpointing what the word stands for, goes as follows – it’s about being consciously cosy, embracing the moment in its entirety, and enjoying the simple things in life

The term itself has its roots in the Norwegian language where a similar word is used to express the idea of well-being. 

In 2016 it was shortlisted as the Oxford Dictionary word of the year. The same year Danish author Meik Wiking published his book “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living” which became an overnight sensation in Europe. 

Breaking down the concept of “hygge”, the book gives comprehensive insight into what this word/lifestyle philosophy is all about. As Meik so eloquently puts it in his bestseller:

What freedom is to Americans…hygge is to Danes.

Now, we won’t attempt to surpass Meik Wiking’s book, but we do encourage you to have a look at our little hygge guide. Especially since we’re about to unveil how bringing the “hygge” aesthetic to your workplace can boost productivity!

What does it mean to live a hygge life?

Bring happiness to your life. Modelling a home or workspace interior after the design principles of hygge is the best way to embrace the so-called ”slow lifestyle” philosophy

With an emphasis on comfort and simplicity, an interior that follows the hygge guidelines is an interior that’s meant to soothe and delight regardless of the season outside the window. However, it’s not the kind of exalted, head-over-heels happiness that might come to your mind. 

What we’re talking about here is a quiet harmony that does not manifest itself in manic outbursts. Here it’s all about an interior that invites tranquillity and balance – a form of happiness that stands the test of time. 

Homemade indulgences

An accomplished hygge lifestyle couldn’t be imaginable without delicious food. Munching away on home-made goodies plays a major part in the concept, and is an organic addition to the snug atmosphere you’re pursuing. 

While enjoying exotic cuisine at a posh restaurant is perfectly fine, hygge really isn’t about that. With ease and a casual approach as the central qualities, the whole thing revolves around keeping it homey and down-to-earth. DIY cookies and a pair of hot mochas? Yes, you’ve nailed it. 

Comfy-wear

The more layers, the better! When it comes to hygge and clothing, it’s all about keeping it warm both inside and outside. This is where all the oversized sweaters, cashmere jumpers and knee-knit socks enter the stage. 

Comfy, casual clothing perfectly characterises the hygge wardrobe, particularly when it comes to pants, whether it’s yoga or sweatpants. In all honesty – whatever feels the best. What matters here is your comfort. 

Home decor that fits the season outside

Embrace all four seasons. Contrary to what you may believe, hygge is not only about sipping warm beverages in comfy clothing during the coldest months of the year. The lifestyle keeps going strong throughout the year with some minor changes in its appearance. 

In short – 

It’s a lifestyle that’s open to frequent adjustments. For example, spring and summer arrive with more emphasis on plants and flowers, while fall sees a switch towards dried up herbs and flowers. 

Just add some mason jars filled with home-made scented candles, a plate with freshly baked cupcakes, and you have a successful seasonal update right there. 

Finding happiness at work – the “Hygge Way”

Nick Marks, an expert on well-being states: ”People who are happier at work are more productive, more engaged, more creative, and have better concentration.”

Being happy at work is quintessential as we tend to spend the better part of our lives in the office. 

This is the exact reason why one should seek a profession that’s sure to satisfy in a long-term. 

You might be wondering why we’re mentioning this? Well, turns out work satisfaction has a lot to do with the Scandinavian way of life and the hygge itself. And this goes far beyond having some hygge-esque design elements in your start-up loft. 

More than just a mere design thing, it’s about establishing personal space, feeling safe and motivated in the professional environment. 

It’s not a coincidence that the countries with hygge ingrained in their national DNA are also the ones with some of the most liberal attitudes towards work schedules. 

Giving employees ample amounts of personal time and offering flexibility in turn for increased productivity, Scandinavians surely know how to utilize hygge principles for the benefit of the enterprise. 

Styling a hygge-esque office

First off – get the “right look”. 

Sure, we slammed the idea of hygge being a superficial looks-only thing. And it really isn’t. Nevertheless, the appearance does matter, as it helps to attain the right mindset. 

Choose the right shades

When it comes to customising your office by hygge principles, it’s about light tones – whites juxtaposed with beige and rosewood hues. Combining organic and industrial, as well as rustic and modern minimalist aesthetics, is another trait that’s quintessential to an authentic hygge experience. 

In practice, this prescribes the use of reclaimed wood, refurbished furniture and rough sawn elements. In some regards, you might easily mistake hygge interior with rustic decor style as both share many similar qualities, relying heavily on clever combinations of organic and industrial design elements. 

Both styles frequently borrow elements from each other, and might even be used interchangeably or in the context of each other.

Keeping it warm with delicious beverages

If you love tea, coffee or hot chocolate with some whipped cream and crushed spearmint candy sprinkled on top, then you’ll admire this aspect of hygge. 

It’s no secret that an XXL-size mug with any of the mentioned beverages is a common trait across all hygge-related imagery. Needless to say, the trend has also found its way into the modern office space. 

Whether it’s corporate headquarters or a coworking spot, hassling your you way to the upper echelons is not imaginable without a modular wooden table and a fuming cup of coffee resting on it. 

Have some yummy snacks in your desk drawer

Where there’s a mug of delicious beverage, there’s bound to be a bowl of complementing snacks. Trust us, these simple, perhaps even trite nuances make a big part of what hygge stands for. Whether it’s home-made macaroons or a chocolate bar, having a delicious treat in an arm’s reach is the kind of a simple delight that makes the hygge magic work.

Be present

If you’ve ever read one of the many hygge definitions, there’s a big chance you noticed a recurring pattern – the philosophy strongly advocates the idea of being present. 

In practice, this translates to getting the most out of small-time delights. Read a book, write down your thoughts, ideas, keep a personal journal. Take frequent walks, switch to bike as your primary means of transportation. 

Being in touch with the environment around you all the while basking in your little world, are the cornerstones of mindfulness – definitive state of mind when it comes to both understanding and enjoying hygge. 

Keep it creative and personal

One of the most overlooked qualities of hygge is the fact that it opens room for immense creativity. Although certain tropes are common to all hygge-inspired interiors, it doesn’t mean you should blindly imitate the given pattern without even the slightest touch of personality. In short – there’s no need to reproduce an IKEA stock room look. 

In other words, experiment, allow yourself little deviations from the theme, and, above it all, keep it true to yourself. 

Motivational quotes or any other imagery you associate with achievements will be a welcome addition to your office space. 

For a more personal take on the theme, you might consider a set of polaroid photos displayed on a cork wall or pegged to a wire that stretches across the whole office space. Alternatively, you might want to use chalkboard walls design and redesign your office space according to your mood. 

Let the nature inside your office space

In other words – make use of plants. The more of them, the better. Apart from being a pure visual treat and effortlessly complementing your office interior, plants provide natural means of purifying the air around you and combat environment-induced stress. 

Music saves lives

Another essential part of Hygge philosophy is audial pleasure. 

Good music is a tried and tested tool for those having trouble maintaining their focus. Improving one’s workflow and serving as a good stress-reliever, carefully selected music will provide a soothing score to your day. 

Our suggestion – this specially curated Spotify playlist, featuring tracks that will ensure nice vibes without making you feeling too comfy deliver your tasks.

Warm light

This one is simple – since Hygge is mostly about feeling warm and comfy inside and outside, it only makes sense to use warm hues to light up your office. Apart from the regular lighting that you might want to use for professional duties, you can create a special mood, by using scented candles and string lights. 

Go the “Scandi Way” 

Now, we cannot stress this one enough, but mimicking Nordic appreciation for light and spacious interiors, is the right way to go if you’re pursuing the textbook hygge look. 

With simplicity, utility and beauty at the core, Scandinavian houses/apartments have a pure style that focuses on clean lines, warmth, and elegance. In practice, this means a lot of whites and earthy muted tones. 

While floors should preferably be wooden, sofas and armchairs are often decorated with throw pillows and snuggly blankets. Another important thing to keep in mind – try to dial back on accessories. Overcrowded design with lots of flashy tones is the polar opposite of the classic hygge look.

Some additional guidelines

Give in to small yet rewarding pleasures

Don’t go too hard on yourself and remember that life’s beauty is to be sought in the little things. In other words – don’t deprive yourself of the little things that soothe your soul. 

Had a long and hard day at work – have that one glass of red wine. Had a good workout at the gym – allow yourself that one piece of chocolate. Don’t deprive yourself of the little things that soothe your soul.

Have a tech-detox at least once in a week

Now, this might be quite a request to our tech-accustomed generation, but a day-long tech celibate is known to pay off big time. 

This, however, does not mean complete isolation and a sudden communication breakdown between you and your folks. Quite the contrary – invite them to your place and enjoy a real, eye-to-eye conversation with them. Nothing better than limiting your online presence and trading it for an evening of shared talks and laughter.

Why is hygge important to you?

Denmark is often listed among the most prosperous and happiest countries in the world, and we have a good reason to believe it’s partly because of their fascination with hygge. 

Are there any takeaways to this? Well, there surely are some, and they go as follows: stop being grumpy.

Stop being grumpy about the weather outside – stay inside and use a bit of imagination to make the best of it from the comfort of your bed. 

Stop being grumpy about the work that’s to be done – ease up, establish a proper workflow, and try to make the process enjoyable. 

Stop being grumpy altogether and remember that happiness is an art of recognising the tiny delights that make the bigger picture – something that pretty much explains hygge in a nutshell. 

*Fun fact: in Denmark, Fridays are called Fredagshygge.

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