Practicing Hygge at Work: Five Ways to Boost Productivity Through Greater Comfort

“Just living isn’t enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” –Hans Christian Anderson, Danish fairytale writer.

The Danes have an interesting approach to work and productivity they refer to as “hygge” (pronounced “hoogah”). Hygge refers primarily to emotional and physical comfort—the kind of coziness that lets you achieve more from a place of contentment. While the rest of the world promotes getting out of one’s comfort zone to get ahead, the Danes embrace comfort as one more way to increase individual productivity. Hygge doesn’t mean being complacent—it means having good wellbeing. Think about it: most of us spend more time working than we do sleeping. Something as minor as a bad chair can make you uncomfortable, and we all know we work better when we feel better.

Let’s look at five ways you can use hygge to improve your emotional and physical comfort, so you can be more productive.

  1. Upgrade your workspace. How can you make your workspace more inviting? Besides keeping it neat, how can you personalize it in ways that make you happy or give you a warm feeling? Decorate it to your liking. Post cartoons and pictures drawn by your young children, nieces, and nephews. Add a bowl of potpourri with a scent you like. A few plants will not only brighten up the place, they’ll clean the air and provide extra oxygen.

  2. Listen to quiet music or ambient sound. Soothing music or white noise may help you feel more at ease, especially when you listen wearing noise-canceling earphones that block the normal office hubbub. Unfortunately, if yours is one of an increasing number of workplaces that have banned headphones, you’ll have to find another alternative. There are some great websites offering the sounds of rain or the quiet chaos of a coffee shop, which soothe many and can passively boost productivity.

  3. Take action to keep warm or cool. Most of us don’t have access to the office thermostat, and even if we did, it wouldn’t be fair to set it at your favorite temperature. Instead of complaining about it, keep a small heater or sweater on hand to help keep you warm when necessary, or use a little desk fan when it’s warmer than you like. A fan can also generate white noise.

  4. Leave your desk at lunchtime. For comfort’s sake, get up and go elsewhere at lunchtime. Eat in the breakroom, go out to lunch, or do something else you like: sit on a bench and read, take a walk around the courtyard outside, or chat with friends. Just don’t sit there and work through lunch! Force yourself to get away from work and do something else for a time.

  5. Nurture your work relationships. Check in with your co-workers on a regular basis. Go out to lunch or schedule an occasional coffee or evening event. Ask about their families, see how they’re doing in general, and help them celebrate their triumphs. A good, solid team dynamic not only makes you feel good, it improves team morale and productivity was well.

Feel Better, Do Better

There may be a few among us who are more productive when they’re not feeling their best, but if they exist, they’re rare. You don’t have to grin and bear it all the time; nor should you. While you don’t want to go too far and over-clutter (since it can distract you when you need to concentrate), embrace your workplace, and make it your own.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

© 2019 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored eight books, including FASTER TOGETHER: Accelerating Your Team’s Productivity (Berrett-Koehler 2018). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and a member of its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at an upcoming meeting or event, call 303-471-7401 or contact us online.

Here’s what others are saying:

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland



  1. Maureen Small says:

    I use two monitors at my desk, so often one of them doesn’t have anything open on it. About 18 months ago, I got the idea to use favorite photos from my travels, family, and pets as my desktop background. They are set to change every minute. I can’t believe how much joy that has brought me! I feel more inspired to work, and happier. I make a point of minimizing any windows I don’t need to be actively looking at just so I can see my background photos. It’s also opened up lots of conversations with my co-workers who ask about the photos, and I’ve gotten to know them better.