Somewhere between cosy and sustainable, hygge at work can be fostered by office landlords as early in the process as a Cat A fit out.

What is hygge?

For all we know, you may have lived in a cave for the past year and missed out on the 'hygge' craze. That's okay, welcome to 2019. Let's fill you in real quick.  First introduced by the Danes, hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) can be translated as a blend of "cosiness", "comfort" and "contentment" all at once. Mindfulness meets carpe diem – hygge is gentle a reminder to slow down and savour the little things, but also a quest for health and wellbeing. It is about a sustainable way of being. And with over 2.5m #hygge Instagram posts shared this year, the popularity of hygge in the U.K. is everything but a coincidence.

Open-plan office with subtle hints of hygge at work
With its muted lighting, acoustic walls and lowered ceilings, the Zendesk San Francisco office was inspired by the Danish concept of "hygge"

Hygge at work  

Initially, the hygge concept belonged to the home. Think crackling fire, woollen throws, a steaming cup of tea, sitting in harmony amidst a rustic Scandinavian interior. Although it may have started as a response to the long and cold Danish winters, hygge doesn't need cold weather to thrive, though. Nor does it require warm blankets, for it is not material. It is a state of mind.

Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things


The Little Book of Hygge, Meik Wiking

In late 2016, "hygge" was shortlisted as the Oxford word of the year -- proof that the Danish definition of happiness has well percolated Western culture, and, incidentally, transcended the home to cosy up with the workplace.

It may seem contradictory at first -- how can an office be cosy and relaxing if employees are to remain productive and efficient? It is doubtful that health and safety regulations will ever include a clause for aromatherapy candles and fireplaces at the office. There is, however, a place for hygge at work, and the journey to wellbeing in the workplace starts earlier in the process than you might think.

A resource for employers and landlords alike

The hygge craze may have already entered the workplace scene, but its full potential remains an untapped resource for landlords and property developers who like to think outside the box while staying on trend. While several how-to resources exist to encourage employers and employees to embrace hygge in the workplace, very little has been said to foster hygge from the very beginning of the office design cycle.

Indeed, the comforting health-imbued influence of hygge can be brought into the office well before the hunt for tenants begins. It may even help. So how can landlords and property agents make the workplace hygge-ready at the stage of a Cat A office fit out, while still offering a flexible environment ready for personnalisation?

How can the Danish state of mind be fostered in a Cat A fit out?

Think light and warmth

Cat A fit out with warm timber flooring
Cat A office fit out with an industrial yet warm feel

While flexibility and a "blank canvas" look are key in  Cat A fit outs, knowing your audience can often help you stand out. And with wellbeing in the workplace being in the forefront of office trends, you might want to take a stand and position yourself as an advocate of wellbeing, or hygge at work, from the get-go.

Needless to say, this should be done in subtle ways. Think warm textures, wooden flooring. energy-saving lighting, sustainably sourced materials that will appeal to the green customer. Location and natural lighting are also worth taking into consideration.

Tap into the cycle-to-work scheme

The Alphabeta cycle-in office in London has a ramp for bike commuters
Bike commuters can cycle into the Alphabeta office and ride to basement and bike storage via a ramp

End-of-trip facilities are becoming more and more important to the modern-day tenant. Very much in line with the Danish reminder to live healthily, cycling is a crucial part of the London commute. And although the numbers remain static, reports show that more commuters would cycle to work if they were provided with adequate end-of-trip facilities.

Incorporating bike storage, locker rooms and shower facilities in the common area of the office building will not only hygge-up the workplace, it will also attract tenants willing to pay higher rent for a more sustainable lifestyle.

Pave the way for hyggelig common areas

momondo office inner courtyard for socialising

Work-life balance is key to Danish culture and an essential element to hygge. While employers can promote a more relaxed company culture by offering wellness incentives and creating socialising spaces, landlords can pave the way for a hyggelig office by focusing on the common areas of said workplace.

Anyone who has ever worked in an office will know – most interactions happen in shared spaces. In other words, landlords who go above and beyond to cater to those shared spaces show a clear understanding of the Millennials' need for interaction and collaboration. If office reception areas, lift lobbies and washrooms all reflect this understanding at the early stage of a Cat A fit out, offices may well command higher rent and landlords will find it easier to attract (and retain) tenants.

Made in Bulgaria, raised in Morocco, "matured" in the UK, Elissaveta is our Editor-in-Chief. Her career started in the field of architecture and design where she developed a talent for creative thinking and an eye for aesthetics. In 2014, she found her calling in design journalism and now has over three years’ experience in writing about design & architecture.