Are you already relying on ‘fika’ for a productive business culture?

Communication is an essential ingredient in any culture project. Yet it is an illusion to assume that managers are the only ones who can help employees adapt to change. In fact, coffee corners are even more important than top-down communication from managers. In the coffee corner, employees share stories that define how people feel about culture change or any change programme. Exchanges with trusted colleagues often have more impact than official announcements. Sweden has its own word for it: fika.

1. Want to know what’s going on? Start in the coffee corner.

What employees say around the coffee machine is a reflection of your company culture. Culture transformations should start at the top, but corporate culture is determined by the behaviour of the majority of those at the bottom. Use tools such as anonymous employee surveys, focus groups, or talk to people who have a personal connection with what happens in the coffee corner. Whatever you do, find ways to check the pulse on how people are feeling and on how they are talking about your change initiative in the coffee corner.

2. Set coffee-corner influencers to work.

Chatting in the coffee corner is not hot air or gossip. It reflects employees’ true thoughts about your company culture. That’s why it’s a good idea to identify “influencers”. These are employees who are not managers, but who have an informal network and are usually trusted more by their peers than managers. Actively involve them in shaping the culture change project. Ask these influencers for their verbal support as well. Their conversations in the coffee corner will greatly accelerate the implementation of your plans. Use this powerful technique to ensure your culture programme is a success!

3. Master the art of coffee and a chat with fika.

For the Swedish, fika means something like drinking coffee, eating sweet treats and chatting. It is as much a part of the working day in Sweden as meetings, video calls and emailing. Many Swedish companies have mandatory fika breaks and employees receive free hot drinks.

At IKEA, it is described as:
“More than a coffee break, fika is a time to talk to colleagues, connect with each other and relax. Some of the best ideas and decisions emerge during fika.”

As a manager, are you concerned that these types of coffee breaks cause inefficiency? Don’t worry, Sweden consistently finishes high in the OECD’s productivity index, above the G7 or EU average.

So next time you break, take the time for a nice cup of coffee and enjoy the chat!

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