We've all heard it before: Danes are some of the happiest people on Earth. In fact, they continue to top the list of happy countries in the annual World Happiness Report, ranking second only to Norway in March 2017.
Many suspect the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced hue-guh ) might be the reason.
Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, has written about the concept in his book, The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. He defines it as "an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and [we] allow ourselves to let our guard down."
Wiking's book is just one of more than six books on hygge published in the United States in 2016. What's more, hygge was also named one of Pinterest's top trends in 2017, making this an increasingly popular concept worldwide.
The Danes created hygge as a counterpoint to their long, cold dark winter (sound familiar?). And, lately, people have been searching for ways to introduce hygge into their own lives. But, to bring that happiness full-circle, they also need that sensation of familiarity and comfort of home . . . at work.
Here's how to make hygge a part of your workplace culture, to help employees find happiness at work:
1. Create private workspaces.
Your team members need their personal space. Even in a collaborative workplace culture, employees need room to decompress, focus and shield themselves from the outside world.
So, create individual workspaces for each employee to make his or her own. This doesn't mean a big fancy corner office, just an area that employees can step into when they need to escape. If your current setup is open, bring in a few movable dividers to create a semi-private atmosphere.
Encourage employees to make these spaces a private oasis. They can bring in pictures from home, a favorite coffee mug and even a pair of slippers. To take it up a notch, bring in cozy blankets for each employee, to show your support and enhance the hyggelig environment.
2. Encourage team-building.
Offering employees a safe space to get away doesn't mean teamwork efforts should stop. A strong support system is crucial to the hygge lifestyle. Employees need to be part of a cooperating team at work -- almost like "family."
The more team-building activities you offer, the safer employees will feel. Organize team scavenger hunts and make the prize a reward they can enjoy together. Motivate them to take a mid-afternoon walk outside together, leaving all technology and work-related stress at the office.
As your team members become more aware of hygge, their confidence in themselves and one other will grow. In turn, your workplace culture will be brighter and full of productive employees.
3. Ditch the dingy coffee maker.
Almost every inspiration picture of hygge has one key element: a coffee mug. But refreshment areas shouldn't be dingy and full of outdated junk foods. To be truly hyggelig, they need to feel clean and bright. Ask employees to bring in a favorite plant to liven up your dining area and add a cozy, comforting element to the office.
If your budget allows, send out a favorite beverage survey and provide those drinks in your updated refreshment bar, as well.
Alternatively, encourage employees to bring in their own favorite snacks and drinks -- even a favorite mug. The more sensations of familiarity you can create through one warm beverage, the better.
4. Focus on ambiance.
This one is a bit more challenging because everyone's home is different. However, you can create a calming sensation through lighting, decor and music.
For starters, shared office areas should be well lit. In fact, according to an August 2017 report by Energy Focus Inc., 71 percent of employees surveyed experienced a health issue they specifically attributed to the lighting in their office. Avoiding fluorescent lighting when possible creates a comforting atmosphere and decreases employees' risk of headaches and eye strain.
As for decor, you won't find any hygge items in an office catalog. Take your workplace culture into consideration and decorate with unique pieces that reflect your office. If your team is full of bold and exciting people, find ways to incorporate bold, colorful accents.
Tie all of this together with music that promotes serenity and creativity. Pandora and Spotify are full of neutral, soothing playlists. While this music plays softly throughout shared spaces, give employees the freedom to listen to whatever they like in their own offices.
5. Promote sincerity every day.
Bringing hygge into your workplace culture isn't just about comfy blankets and tasty coffee. Your job is to create a place where employees feel welcome, seen and recognized. Being open and kind to employees decreases stress. When your team members feel open and appreciated, they'll be more resilient.
Do this with frequent and immediate recognition. From offering up a simple compliment to recognizing an employee for a job well done on a major project, you'll find that every little bit counts. As employees become accustomed to being seen and heard, kindness will spread into every aspect of your workplace culture.
Don't forget to show your own vulnerabilities, to further connect in the moment with your team. Recognize when you've made a mistake or are even struggling with a bad day. Understanding that even leadership stumbles sometimes will help employees know they're free to be their authentic selves at work.