Kara hurried out of her office and slammed the car door in frustration as she sped out of the parking lot. Her boss gave her a bunch of papers to be signed by a new vendor they were using for a customer relations software package. As usual, when leaving the corporate office, Kara felt stressed, tense and about ready to come out of her skin. At first, she had been excited being hired by a successful company and figured going to work in their sleek new office building would be great. After three months, however, she felt like snapping at everyone in sight. Today was no exception as she gave her opinion aloud of all the drivers in her way who seemed to have no business on the road.
Pulling up to the software company, she looked in surprise at the huge building. When the receptionist escorted her to see the CEO, she entered a comfortably furnished room that looked more like someone’s living room. A woman about Kara’s age, Marcy, came from behind a table and greeted her warmly.
Kara nodded and introduced herself. Marcy indicated a seat at a sofa with some mugs, a hot carafe of water and a rosewood box holding a selection of teas. “Have a cup of tea,” said Marcy. “Let’s chat and then we can do the paperwork.”
In 10 minutes, Kara felt more happy and comfortable in this work situation than she had at her own in the past few months. Finally, she blurted out: “Marcy, I can’t tell you how nice it is here. I can’t explain it, but after being in an office that looks so sterile with everything focused on work, your place is like an oasis.” Putting her cup down, Kara asked, “There’s something here that is so unique for me. What did you do?”
Marcy smiled happily. "It's called 'hygge.' I spent a year of college in Denmark, and the term comes from them. It means making things cozy and comfortable. When I saw how well it worked for my home and family, I made a conscious effort to do it to my business when it began to take off. My employees enjoy coming to work because of the atmosphere I created. I am a believer that happy employees make for great employees, and hygge is a component of that!”
Pronounced “hoo-geh,” the Danish word indeed loosely translates to “cozy.” The concept for the Danish people began somewhere in the 1800s and became a lifestyle goal for much of the country.
Picture yourself on a snowy day settling down with a cup of hot chocolate or your favorite beverage watching a good movie with friends or loved ones. It’s a warm and cozy feeling thinking about it. That’s hygge. The word comes from a Norwegian word for “well-being.” As a trend, it caught on in the United Kingdom with books published on the subject in the past five years. Now, it has spread to the United States.
Many companies, big and small, do not spend a lot of time figuring out how to make the workplace an enjoyable place for its people. In fact, some go so far the other way that their offices or work locations are devoid of any items besides necessities. There are no personal pictures or decorations, there's a strict dress code and the ambiance resembles that of an operating room. The general reason for this is to “reduce distractions.”
In reality, people are the most valuable resource any company has. Ever notice some of the most successful companies also consistently rank on the lists of best places to work? There is a correlation. When you have happy employees, they stick around. You have an experienced staff who knows what they are doing and are used to working with everyone around them. It becomes the perfect storm of establishing a great workplace culture.
Aside from the physical aspects of promoting coziness, a great deal of hygge in the workplace is the policies you implement for the employees. Let’s take a look at a few ideas that are easy to adopt that cost the company nothing.
• Encourage your workers to take their breaks outside. Nothing clears the mind and improves the mood more than physically getting out of the office for coffee or to have lunch.
• Let your employees listen to music. Depending on how many people you have working and the limits of the office, they might have to wear earphones or keep the music low, but many reports indicate that music adds to the job satisfaction for a worker. In the same way, wearing comfortable clothing at work has a huge positive effect.
• Give employees an opportunity to decorate their desk or work area. Your employees are going to spend at least a third of their day at work. What is so terrible about letting them enjoy where they have to spend that time? Absolutely nothing at all! The lines between work and personal life should be less blurry.
There is more reason than ever before to create a work environment that will promote a positive attitude when your employees are present. For that matter, this applies to business owners and management as well. The simple concept of hygge can introduce everything positive you want in your business and workplace.
A version of this article first appeared on Forbes.
Divya Parekh is an international Executive Leadership Coach and #1 bestselling author. She is CEO of The DP Group, LLC a global coaching and consulting firm that provides leadership and team development services as well as corporate coaching. Having success in four major career paths, Divya has the expertise and knowledge of real world business backed by a proven record of success. Divya brings over 25 years of rich and extensive experience in academia, the biopharmaceutical industry, and as a global executive and leadership coach. In each of her many roles, she has empowered leaders with breakthrough insights, talent development strategies, and measurable business outcomes. During her biopharmaceutical journey, Divya led successful multi-million dollar projects from concept to completion in a fast-paced and competitive environment. Divya knows what it takes to initiate communication channels that cut across departments, improve cross-functional collaboration, and leverage scientific principles, technical skills, and Lean Six Sigma problem solving tools to measure, evaluate, and improve the productivity of leaders and teams. Divya has guided many seasoned executives, leaders, and management personnel into realizing their goals by creating a cohesive plan to reach their next level of accomplishment. She believes the key factor in leadership success is the partnerships we cultivate. She helps others to learn the exponential power in developing a thorough understanding of their business partners to build resonant relationships and a foundation of mutual trust and safety. Working with cross-functional groups, she inspires them to morph into high-performing, collaborative teams. Her technique utilizes measurable assessments, a supportive delivery method and a bit of pointed accountability that ensures the success of both leaders and professionals in the organization. Divya coaches leaders to cultivate interdependence between themselves and their internal and external stakeholders to achieve a combined mastery in connectivity and alignment through complex business and personal challenges. When people function in an environment of mutual trust, Return on Energy and Return on Investment flourish both in business and life. Divya is the recipient of Worldwide Branding VIP of the Year in 2013 as well as NAPW VIP Woman of the Year in 2014 for showing dedication, leadership, and excellence in leadership coaching. Additionally, Continental Who’s Who named her as a Pinnacle Professional in the field of coaching and consulting. As a Forbes Coaches Council Official Member, Divya is a regular contributor to Forbes. Divya is also the author of numerous leadership and entrepreneurial books. Her books include Stress Management, Mindfulness Mastery, Critical Thinking, Candid Critique, Appreciative Inquiry, Leadership and Influence, Emotional Intelligence, and her newest book, The Entrepreneur's Garden.