Americans are obsessed with productivity. From self-help books to TED Talks, we find ourselves searching for ways to work longer and more efficiently. While diligence and efficiency are hallmarks of great professionals, are we missing something? Is there a better way than the tried and true American method? Could a Swedish tradition hold the key to increasing employee morale and developing better teams?  

Fika in the Workday

The tradition is fika, and it couldn’t be more antithetical to the American-styled business day. Twice a day, Swedes break for a half hour to fika: once in the morning and again in the afternoon.1 According to the Swedish Academy’s dictionary, fika2 refers to the daily practice of drinking coffee and tea. However, this word has a meaning far greater than a mere coffee break. While Americans use coffee breaks as opportunities to refuel and recharge, Swedes use fika as an opportunity to focus on building relationships and enjoying the moment – this means that work takes a back seat.

The Practical Elements of Fika

Fika typically consists of a beverage3 and food.4 During the fika it is customary to drink coffee, tea, soda, or hot chocolate. The beverage is typically accompanied with either a sweet (i.e. kanelbulle,5 kladkakka,6 or äppelkaka[noteApple cake[/note]) or a smörgås.7 In any case, fika isn’t about what is eaten – it’s about enjoying company.

Embracing Fika

Whether you find yourself in Sweden on business or you just want to build camaraderie with your colleagues, remember that fika is centered on building authentic relationships and enjoying the moment.


Jones, B. W. (2015, April 22). For the Love of Fika. Retrieved March 10, 2018, from

  1. Typically, 10:00 and 15:00
  2. According to the Swedish National Encyclopedia, fika functions as both a noun and a verb
  3. e.g., coffee, tea,
    hot chocolate, or saft (Swedish juice concentrate)
  4. kanelbulle (cinnamon roll), kladkakka (chocolate cake), or a smörgås
  5. cinnamon roll
  6. chocolate cake
  7. typically an open-faced sandwich