Are you happy at work?

Think about it.

On the one hand, we have no shortage of studies that explain how happiness can boost our brain to think better in business; or best practices for combating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) at the office; or even how to play the best music for happier workers.

On the other hand we have a growing body of research warning of the high percentage -- more than half -- of employees who are actively seeking other jobs, an eventuality that is compounded by the high cost of employee turnover.

Being happy at work matters -- to your company's bottom line as well as to your and your co-workers' overall well-being.

How can you create a happier work environment?

There's a lot to learn in this regard from the people of Denmark, who repeatedly score highest in nearly every global happiness index or research study undertaken on the subject of happiness. Denmark is also home to the Happiness Research Institute (a real thing) in Copenhagen, which is led by CEO Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. The Danes are masters of a concept called hygge (pronounced HOO-ga), which translates to a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being.

In other words, hygge represents all the things that happy workers feel.

If you want to generate happiness in the workplace, or if you just want to be happier in general at work, it's time to bring on the hygge. Here are five ways to make that happen.

No Candles, No Hygge

Nothing represents hygge as powerfully as lit candles. It's about light and warmth, two self-proclaimed obsessions of the happy Danes. Safely lighting candles in your workspace is the fastest way to hygge. If that isn't feasible, there are other ways to build an awareness of winter light into your day, starting with the "magic hour."

Embrace the Magic Hour

The "magic hour" occurs twice during the day, Wiking explains -- the first hour after sunrise, and the last hour before sunset. That's when the lighting is softer, transitional and atmospherically dim. With shorter wintertime days, many of us are still at the office as it's getting dark. Take a few minutes to notice the change in light outside your window or, better yet, take a few minutes to step outside into the fresh air. 

Schedule Meetings Earlier in the Day

It's common practice for Danes to leave the office by 5 pm or even earlier if they have children. Lovely as that sounds, it may not be practicable in many work environments in the U.S. We can, however, edge a little in that direction by dialing down the intensity of the meeting schedule toward the end of the day.


Enjoying cake (and coffee) ranks high on the hygge scale. Partly it's the pleasure of something sweet, partly it's taking the time to indulge in a small treat, and partly it's the companionship of sharing the treat with co-workers and friends. The art of pastry is taken seriously in Denmark. Less serious, but fun and still significant, is bringing a snack of cake to share around the office.


Used and well-loved books, especially classic works of fiction, are an important part of a hygge workplace. Look for an open shelf or convenient location, perhaps in a common area at the office, and occupy it with some of your own favorites. Invite others to do the same, and encourage a "take one, leave one" policy.

These are small, low-risk gestures that can exert a measure of "happiness influence" around the office. Just ask the Danes, reigning happiness champs.

Published on: Dec 14, 2017
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