I am one of those crazy people that loves winter. Maybe it’s because I’m married to someone from Buffalo whose taught me how to enjoy long days of white.
But I think my love of the season started way before that. Snuggling with hot cocoa and reading under blankets while watching the snowflakes out the window. Some of my favorite lighting is created when snow builds up on a sunlight window and you get this beautiful soft shadow of winter.
So last year when I discovered the Swedish art of hygge, I was quite excited. Actually, I was pretty inspired by Scandinavia in general. It turns out that they love winter even more than my family. But not only do they love the season, they developed a lifestyle to embrace it.
Hygge – pronounces “hoo-ga” – is a Danish lifestyle concept that embraces the idea of cozy living and healthy well being through the simple things.
Although hygge lifestyle isn’t exclusively for the winter (there are many ways to live hygge during all of the seasons), winter is when I seem to want to incorporate the lifestyle the most into my life.
This includes creating hygge in my home office. But the snuggling and cozy aspects makes me think of winter and snow. It’s no surprise that with hygge winter became my most productive time of year.
After researching a lot about hygge, I discovered that I’ve been living this lifestyle my entire life. It must be my German roots. (Germans have a similar lifestyle gemütlichkeit, but like many things German it just failed to become a major lifestyle trend in the US. It seems the Danes are cooler.)
If you’ve ever found yourself snuggling with a book on a snowy day, listening to music by candlelight or gathering together for a relaxed game night, you’ve lived hygge.
The best part of living the hygge lifestyle is all of the physical and social benefits that go with it. Hygge embraces comfort, relaxation and simplicity through design and lifestyle choices. Having hygge décor promotes a sense of calm and peace in your living space. (Maybe adding some hygge principles to my every day means that I won’t feel like I’m always living in a junk drawer any more.)
Hygge also promotes companionship. The lifestyle encourages us to build and nurture our connections with others. Reminds me of the clean house effect. If I could naturally have a cleaner house, I’d be more than willing to host that impromptu play date on occasion.
There are also many emotional benefits including lower stress, greater mindfulness of the world around you and increased optimism.
So, then I got to thinking. If I could get all of these benefits from tossing a few extra blankets on the couch this winter, maybe adding some hygge elements to my home office would increase my productivity.
With winter coming, I’ve been working on adding hygge to my office space. Turns out that there are lots of ways to create this wonderful lifestyle in the area that I work in as well as my every day life.
Here are some ideas that I’ve implemented.
When I worked in office buildings and schools, the ceiling lighting was always those harsh fluorescent lights that make your head spin after a couple of hours. I was more likely to keep them off – which my students loved – whenever possible.
Avoid harsh lighting in your home office. Instead, choose soft lighting options. In my home studio, I have two floor lights that cast a soft glow during early morning work sessions. It makes it easier to write before the sun comes up.
I’m also lucky enough to have windows to bring in natural light. Look for a space with natural lighting options. It’s a great way to avoid electric lighting – at least for part of the day.
For desk lighting, choose light bulbs that give off a warm glow. You’ll find it more soothing as you work.
And remember, not all lighting that you add to an office space needs to be electric. You can try a candle on your desk. Although this might not bring a lot of “light” to work by, it can soothe the space and smell amazing. I choose outdoor scents to bring a little more natural feel in.
One of my favorite parts of hygge is bringing nature indoors. Studies have found that adding indoor plants to your home help make us happy. They also combat indoor air pollution, improve our mood, reduce colds and even prevent us from seeing a therapist.
If plants have this many benefits in our home, imagine what they could do for your home office. Add a small shelf with some of your favorite miniature green friends. I’m partial to cacti.
You could also place a plant on a book shelf, floor or desk space. Check out some of the best office plant options here.
And don’t forget to name it. Your plant could be your first employee.
Surround yourself with Trinkets
No matter how much you enjoy your job, working can be hard because you are away from the things you love. Whether that means your family, pets or your latest vacation destination, it’s difficult to concentrate when the things that mean the most to us seem so far away.
Bring yourself closer to the places you really want to be by adding trinkets from those special places. Have a shelf with souvenirs from your travels, photos of your family and art work to transport you back.
You could even add a little bowl of shells (or other souvenirs from nature). Then, you can touch them whenever you want and be brought back to your favorite outdoor spaces.
The more you remind yourself of these favorite people and destinations, the more motivated you’ll be to get your job done. Then, you can go back to doing the things you really, really love.
Basket of Blankets
One of the elements of hygge that I added to our family room last year was a basket of blankets. I went to Wayfair and purchased an assortment of throw blankets. I rolled them up in a basket and kept them next to the couch.
Snuggling in a blanket was one of my favorite parts of last winter.
Having a basket of blankets around doesn’t have to be limited to the family room. I keep an electric blanket in my office which keeps me warm at my computer.
You can also assemble an assortment of blankets to snuggle in while you work. Just make sure their accessible. I never like to walk far when I’m chilly.
Warms your Toes
Speaking of the cold, another way to add some hygge to your home office is by wearing slippers or socks while you work.
One of the benefits of not working in a traditional office is that you don’t need shoes on all day. Relax those feet and keep them cozy with slippers or socks instead. Your toes will thank you.
Since starting to work from home full time, I find the quiet of the house sometimes hard to concentrate. It’s strange not being surrounded by the chatter of littles all day.
So, I’ve started to play soft music while I work. Usually I go for classical or folk. And about mid-fall, I turn on Christmas music. (Why not? It’s never too early for some caroling.)
As a treat, I got an Amazon Echo Dot. This way it will play whatever music I’m in the mood for. I can also listen to my podcasts or audiobooks. This is especially helpful when I’m working on projects that don’t need too much focus.
It’s hard to think positively all the time. Especially when you run your own business. But when you incorporate hygge in your life, positive thinking comes with the territory.
Help yourself think more positively (and relax at the same time), by adding some positive mantras around your home office. You can display your favorite quotes framed on your walls, posted on your desk bulletin board or even design one as a fancy screen saver.
I’m not even sure computers use those any more.
Most importantly surround yourself by the positive thoughts you want to have. Remembering to be positive helps you remain calm when you have bumps in your day and act as reminders for why you do what you do.
Schedule Self Care
One of the elements of the hygge lifestyle is finding time to relax. Sadly, this can be hard when you run a business and have a family. At least naturally.
Whenever I have time that I could be relaxing, I manage to find another list of things that I should be doing.
Instead of leaving self-care up for chance, make it a priority and schedule it in. Find an afternoon when the kids are at school or a weekend day that you can steal a few “you” hours. But write it down in your planner and stick to it.
Adding self-care into your schedule will improve your productivity when you are in the office. It will give you a break from the stress and help you find more of a work-life hygge balance.
Work in the Coffee Break
One of the Swedish traditions that I absolutely love is the fika. Basically, an afternoon coffee break. Usually held around 3 p.m., fika is a time when co-workers, family and friends all take a pause from work and share a cup of coffee together.
If you do work a full work day, schedule some time to have a coffee break. Even if you work on your own and talk to your cat.
I like to have my coffee break in the afternoon after school dismissal. It gives me a chance to catch up with my kids about their day and share a snack together.
And on the days that I can’t schedule in an official afternoon fika, I do make sure that I have a hot beverage in my hands more often than not. During the cold winter months, it’s hard to be productive and not be cozied up with a cup of coffee, tea, hot apple cider or hot cocoa.
Simplify your Morning Routine
True or false – Is the following an example of hygge?
You run into Starbucks. Grab your daily cup of coffee before heading to work, while scrolling through last night’s social media posts and responding to your top client before 8 a.m.
If you guessed false, you were right. But does this morning routine sound like yours in the least?
I can’t say that I always stop by Starbucks for a coffee every morning, but I do have a tendency to respond to customers demands before the sun’s up and I’ve said good morning to my family.
Hygge is all about simplicity. In order to create hygge in your home office, try to simplify your morning routine. Enjoy your cup of coffee on the back porch. Do some yoga or meditation. Take time for you in the morning. All before thinking about work and your to do list.
You’ll be a lot more productive. And your home office will seem more appealing to work in.
Organize your Work Space
Not everyone was born neat. Just ask my kids. Some of us have the blessing of being a bit more messy than others.
Although messy can be okay, it’s important to keep your work space organized to create an ideal hygge environment.
File your papers. Sort through the mail. And keep your workspace clean.
An organized workspace will keep your home office calm and relaxing. Who wants to stress out every time they need to find something?
After you’ve organized your work space, keep it that way by creating some hygge friendly habits. Always put away your things after you use them. Keep a basket at your office entrance to collect odds and ends. And schedule time weekly to freshen up your space.
Bring in the Season
The world is an ever changing season. But many times we forget because we are in our offices all day. Connect again with the natural world by bringing in elements of the season.
Add some leaves from fall, flowers in the spring or artifacts from your recent trip to the beach. You could also paint rocks with seasonal symbols to remind you of the current one.
If you aren’t as crazy about bringing seasonal nature inside, you could also decorate your home office for different holidays. For Christmas, you could add a small tree. Or decorate pumpkins for Halloween.
These simple reminders of the world outside our office doors keeps us connected with the bigger life around us.
Create a Cozy Nook
When I designed my studio work space, the one piece that I didn’t include was a cozy nook to relax in. You know. A place to think creative thoughts, write and just be.
After starting to add hygge into my office space, I am rethinking this decision. Every home office should have a little place to relax.
Decide on the location of your cozy nook. If you have a smaller office space, find another place in your home that you can use.
Add some pillows, blankets and comfortable chair. If you like mood lighting, you could also add some Christmas lights. Or have a side table for a candle.
I also love to keep my favorite design books and inspirational magazines close at hand. Anything that’s going to inspire me to relax and spur my creativity.
Criticize your Seating
One of the most essential elements in any room is the seating. Does the room have enough of it? And is it comfortable?
This is no different in your home office. Although you might not host guests in your home office, it’s still important to criticize your seating with a careful eye.
Start with the chair that you sit in to work. Think about the following questions:
Is it comfortable? Does it support your back? Do you like the look and feel?
Consider other seating in the room. Choose creative seating solutions that fit your office space. I use picnic benches at the studio table. They’re the perfect length and our whole family can gather around them.
You could also add a comfy arm chair for reading, bean bag chairs or even a small sofa.
Whatever you choose, just make sure it’s comfortable and functional to create hygge in your home office.
I’m so excited for this winter now that I’ve added elements of hygge to my home office. Even after a couple weeks, I’ve seen a huge boost to my mood and productivity.
The best thing is that once you understand hygge, it’s easy to add some elements into your own home office space.
If you are new to hygge, start small. Choose one or two things to add to your home office space. Then, see how they go.
Over time, when practiced daily, the hygge lifestyle starts to become second nature. You’ll notice that you have scheduled weekly self care on the calendar and your office space seems more organized.
And remember, creating hygge in your home office isn’t limited to the winter months. You can add hygge in during any season. The things you add just might look different.
Change up the seasonal items in your basket. Add art reflective for the season. As the weather gets warmer, include daily walks to connect with nature into your work day.
Most importantly, monitor your mood and productivity. Once you’ve added some hygge in your home office space, see if they soar. I’ve been amazed by how much my daily feeling of success has increased since adding hygge.
Here’s to Scandinavia and a successful hygge office space!