Fika is a concept, a state of mind, an attitude and an important part of Swedish culture. Like us, many Swedes consider that it is almost essential to make time for fika every day. It means making time for friends and colleagues to share a cup of coffee (or tea) and a little something to eat ... and in the modern world this is increasingly becoming 'virtual fika'
In our new world of 'shelter in place', 'lock-down' and 'isolation', lets not let Fika or the refrain, "lets grab a coffee" disappear. Lets try out something new to retain this important part of our social and business culture and ramp-up the 'virtual coffee' or Fika.
In our current work environment, we can't rely on accidentally bumping into each other so, we've got to get used to scheduling our unstructured time together. This is a skill we all know, open your calendar and invite your friends or colleagues to a Fika or Virtual Coffee.
That's the easy part, as with anything new, there are some new skills for us all to learn, and here are a couple of my favourite tips. 0. BYOB. Most importantly, Bring Your Own Beverage. When we work in an office together, someone usually ensures that there’s enough coffee and snacks for everyone there. But online, remote workers have to fend for ourselves and bring our own beverages and snacks. However, this is a great opportunity for getting to know each other. What kind of drinks do your colleagues like? What’s the story behind that mug? You’d be surprised what can be learned from simply eating and drinking something together.
1. Turn the video on. This takes some courage, a virtual coffee is not going to work if you leave the video feed off. With the video on;
We have a decent chance of feeling like we are in the same room and can read each others' expression.
We can help each other stay present ... on a no-video call, there is a temptation to distraction (see Tip 2, remain present).
If you are worried about your appearance, try the following
Stop looking at yourself Having our own reflection staring back at us on the screen can be very distracting. If this is something you struggle with, try putting a post-it note over your face on the screen or minimizing your own camera screen.
Don't Sit too close Just like in real life, someone sitting too close to the camera can make the other person feel uncomfortable - it invades their personal space. Best thing to do to avoid this is practice before the real call. Prepare your positioning prior, which also gives you a chance to check what you look like and that you are comfortable with how you are sitting.
Think about the lighting. Try to find some nicely diffused, front facing light such as a window or desk lamp.
Remove the clutter The background is more distracting than you think! If your virtual coffee is with friends, it probably doesn't matter, but if this is a business meeting, think about where you are going to position your camera to ensure your video has a clean and simple backdrop. One of the key features I like with Microsoft Teams is that it allows you to blur the background ... give that a try if you struggle to find a suitable background.
2. Listen & Be Present Now that your coffee mates can see you, be sure to remain 'present'. Make it clear that you are engaged and listening by nodding, leaning forward and generally showing some movement in your facial expression. Unlike in real life, a vacant expression can quickly and embarrassingly be mistaken for a frozen screen.
3. Avoid distractions Make sure to disable any messaging or email notifications on your laptop that could pop up mid sentence. Just like its rude to be on your phone while having a real world coffee, turn your phone off or out of site, shut down your email and notifications, and chat! your phone onto silent mode, or leaving it in another room is also recommended.
4. Plan For some reason, Fika can take a little bit of effort to start the conversation, so its worth doing some pre-thinking. Have a couple of Icebreakers up your sleeve, for example: what are you eating and drinking – and why? What is your favorite coffee treat? Take a picture of your shoes and show others what you’re wearing. Find a video clip to share, or a recipe, or perhaps a quiz?
5. Check your tech and be punctual! This brings us onto our final tip — check out your connection and the platform before you start! Make sure you have a great internet connection, a quiet background, or a headset so that it’s easy to hear each other. Fika works much more effectively when the technology is running smoothly, so please invest in a pre-check and lets all try not to blame the tech for being late!
In a future update, we will expand on this piece with some advice for Virtual Networking ... meeting people you don't know ... till then!
About Fika: Fika is a concept, a state of mind, an attitude and an important part of Swedish culture. Many Swedes consider that it is almost essential to make time for fika every day. It means making time for friends and colleagues to share a cup of coffee (or tea) and a little something to eat.