A full week of Teams-Zoom-Hangouts-Meet-Skype-Slack and Friday is coming up. Time to slow down, you think, but your Swedish colleagues have a different opinion. Friday is the very culmination of the week and an opportunity to get high on sugar after a full five days of Lutheran discipline.
Forget about casual Friday
In normal times, there would be a time and a place, and everyone would gather to compliment and consume a homemade confection and one last cup of coffee-machine coffee before the weekend kicks in. Now, when nothing is normal, there is a time but no place. Come Friday afternoon, and you are as stuck to that kitchen chair as you’ve been since March, your private life splashed out as an open wound on your screen.
But there is no excuse for Swedes to abandon this fundamental of celebrating the upcoming break from endless meetings. You must have learnt that long ago, that Swedish fika culture has nothing to do with coffee and pastries and all to do with social connections, bonding, the whole lagom lifestyle crap.
There is some truth in all of this though, and the recurring Friday fika in many offices is a good moment to spend some time with your colleagues before they rush off to pick up their children or do some yoga or build a shed or pick up their best friend from hunddagis.
Many, but not all, Swedish workplaces deploy a Friday fika rota, meaning that one or two people are appointed to make sure there is kaffebröd (‘coffee bread’, that is, sweet yet filling baked goods, preferably homemade) for everyone by the end of the week.
Never try to surprise anyone here, if Britt-Marie (who is Britt-Marie by the way?) has brought something, you will divert her needed attention by complementing it with your favourite cookie. That is not good. Wait for your turn, it will come, and if you are unsure when, you’ll find a spreadsheet with this information on your shared server.
The etiquette is rigorous (stick to the plan) and the definition of what is good fika material is set in stone: it has to be homemade. All Swedes know how to bake. (And how to set up a tent and use an axe and identity 40 billions species of trees in nature.)
Hence, homemade cake is a must, but if you (God forbid) fail to live up to this or if there’s an emergency, you may turn to a bakery. Never, never, never get something from the supermarket, for workplace Friday fika. It would be an insult not only to your colleagues but to the art of baking and the whole concept of Swedish coffee culture.
This is the traditional way. Now, the covid pandemic has changed things around and Britt-Marie and you will be stuck at home, snacking desperately on supermarket biscuits and other dark secrets. You may think that the virus killed not only Sverigebilden but also the Friday fika phenomenon. However, some reliable sources and spies have informed me that this is not the case. Friday fika is flourishing more than ever, bringing together millions of tired employees to share this crucial moment — virtually.
But how do we organise the ritual of fredagsfika when the home-made goodies stay safe on Britt-Marie’s kitchen counter and you finished your chocolate fingers on Wednesday morning during the endless meetings on how to organise digital meetings? What are you going to talk about when you can’t share recipes and ask how the cinnamon tastes so much of cinnamon when there is no butter? How do we stick around when there is nowhere to go?
Well, apparently the New Big Thing (Those immortal companies who can afford weekly fika delivery their employees aside) is the Friday Fika Game. This may also be renamed the Lame Game because as my sources can confirm, your Swedish colleagues have not taken this as an opportunity to be themselves more than they do at work.
Don’t count on dressing up as a kanelbulle or performing your latest stunt in front of your webcam. The most imaginative I’ve heard of is telling two lies and one truth and making your colleagues learn how good you are at — telling lies. May come in useful. Another less thrilling game is to eat your favourite ekologisk ice-cream and tell your co-workers why you love it. True story.
Curious about other curious habits in the Swedish workplace? Working in Sweden is a handy guide to all things Swedish, in a simple A–Z format and an entertaining approach.