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Cozy Sweaters and Coffee Dates Can Boost Your Productivity — Here's How Channel the Danish comfort culture of hygge to take your business to the next level.

By Aytekin Tank Edited by Jessica Thomas

Key Takeaways

  • The surprising benefits of hygge include fewer sick days and a more empathetic environment.
  • When you prioritize comfort, your team will tackle tasks with renewed focus.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In the basement of a late 18th-century building in Copenhagen's Old Town, you'll find the Happiness Museum. Curated by the Happiness Research Institute, it's an entire museum dedicated to exploring the nature of — you guessed it — happiness. It makes sense that the museum is located in the heart of Denmark's capital.

Despite an average of 170 rainy days a year, Danish are among the happiest people in the world. Hygge (pronounced "hooga") is no small part of that. And though many of today's articles would have you believe that it's about cozy sweaters and hot cocoa by the fireplace, the concept of hygge goes deeper.

Hygge is about hitting pause amid a busy day to spend time with people you care about, and "to relax and enjoy life's quieter pleasures." You can find some hygge in a park, on the banks of a river or even at the office — with or without the hot cocoa.

As the Danish tourism board explains, "One good thing about hygge is that you can apply it anywhere."

As CEO of Jotform, I'm always trying to build a workplace where employees feel engaged and able to do their best work. The more I researched hygge, the more I wanted to incorporate it into our workplace. In fact, we were already practicing some of the tenets of hygge, without even knowing it!

The benefits of hygge go far beyond feeling cozy. Here's a closer look at some of the unexpected benefits that flow from the Danish secret to happiness.

Related: Try This Wildly Successful Scandinavian Technique to Make Work Comfy for Employees: It's Called 'Hygge'

The surprising benefits of hygge

An important facet of hygge is not going it alone. As Jeppe Linnet, a Danish anthropologist specializing in hygge, told The Guardian, "Hygge as an experience has a big social component. Being with others is at the core of the concept. The term is more readily used when people talk about their experience of being with someone."

At the office, that could mean finding a quiet nook for a shared meal or a coffee with a pastry. On the agenda: no agenda. Instead, hygge is about appreciating the moment and talking about deeper topics. More than anything, it's about giving yourself the space and time to unwind and share a moment with a coworker.

Related: Tap Into the 5 Senses to Supercharge Your Work Productivity

Fewer sick days

Leaders have every reason to foster these moments of connection between colleagues. For starters, hygge promotes physical health, which reduces absenteeism.

Hygge has also been found to promote emotional health in various ways, including less depression and anxiety, increased optimism, lowered stress and a greater sense of mindfulness. You might be surprised to learn that a change in mental health affects absenteeism more than three times greater than a change in physical health. In short, your employees' mental health is just as (if not more!) important as their physical health.

Related: A Drab Office Environment Kills Productivity. Here Are 3 Ways to Upgrade Your Workspace.

Boosted productivity

In addition to reducing absenteeism, cultivating hygge at the workplace can supercharge productivity. Dan Rogers, CEO of the London office of Peakon, a Danish tech company that runs an employee engagement platform, told The Guardian, "A nice working environment has a huge impact on employee well-being and on an employee's desire to be in the office, which has a commensurate effect on productivity and performance."

While hitting pause, taking a moment to appreciate the pleasant details of your surroundings — be it a soothing candle or that thriving Monstera plant in the corner of the office — effectively pulls you off the treadmill of a day at work. When you return from your break, you'll hit the ground running.

Related: Want to Be More Productive at Work? You Need Better Hobbies.

A more empathetic environment

Another essential component of hygge is that it reflects the values of Danish society, including equality and the well-being of everybody. That includes being considerate towards colleagues and respecting their viewpoints.

According to anthropologist Jeppe Linnet, "You could say that it is about being forthcoming and friendly and accepting towards other people. It is the opposite of being judgmental, challenging and condescending. It's basically trying to create the sense in other people that they are allowed to be [who they are]."

This kind of safe, empathetic workplace boosts morale. What's more, researchers have found that employees who felt care from colleagues had less emotional exhaustion, less absenteeism, better teamwork and higher satisfaction.

Renewed focus

Finally, if you've read my work, then you know that one of the keystones of my approach to sustainably growing a business is taking ample time for doing nothing at all. One of the goals of my new book about automation is to offer readers the tools to slash busy work and have more time for more meaningful stuff — like deep work and, yes, rest.

Disconnecting for even a short period refreshes your mind and morale alike. You return to work with renewed motivation and focus. As Harvard Business Review explains, "The brain operates optimally when it toggles between focus and unfocus, allowing you to develop resilience, enhance creativity, and make better decisions too." In short: In order to focus better, you need periods of unfocus, too.

If you commit to carving out time for rest, make it count. Rather than scrolling social media, incorporating hygge into your downtime helps ensure that you are truly slowing down. It might be easier to simply Irish goodbye from the office, but make it a priority to connect with others. Share a coffee shop treat or a stroll. Gather in the office kitchen and share last night's baking project (for better or worse). Talk about what's currently exciting you, be it the most talked about series or that Greek island you finally get to visit this summer.

Hygge may be a modern-day buzzword, but I'm convinced that there's a reason that it's a fundamental aspect of Danish culture. With a few thoughtful strategies, it can become integral to your office culture, too. In the end, it's about disconnecting from the hamster wheel of work, connecting with others and taking a meaningful break in your day. It might take some effort at first, but it will become like second nature once you experience the benefits — a healthier, more productive and happier workplace.

Related: Why Being 'Always On' Is Killing Your Innovation, and How to Truly Disconnect

Aytekin Tank

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Entrepreneur; Founder and CEO, Jotform

Aytekin Tank is the founder and CEO of Jotform and the author of Automate Your Busywork. Tank is a renowned industry leader on topics such as entrepreneurship, technology, bootstrapping and productivity. He has nearly two decades of experience leading a global workforce.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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