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Virtual Fika: How Padma Warrior adapted a Swedish tradition to empower her new startup

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Virtual Fika: How Padma Warrior adapted a Swedish tradition to empower her new startup

Find out how Fable's company ritual promotes wellness and deeper connections, and how you can quickly set up virtual fikas for your own teams.
Growing up in India, I often found solace in a good book. Now, I’m on a mission to help others do the same—and rediscover reading as a long-lost form of self-care.
It turns out that there’s a lot of behind this. is one way to improve our cognitive fitness and mental health, so we can relax and de-stress. Filling the micro-moments of our hectic lives with stories also helps us develop more empathy, so we’re able to connect with others more deeply.
I’ve spent much of my career running large tech teams at Motorola, Cisco, and . So, it made sense for me to combine my experience in the tech industry with my passion for mental wellness and launch —a company with a vision to promote self-care and empowerment through communities built around reading.
Fable solves to two big questions in my mind:
How do you modernize book clubs and bring them into the digital world?
How do you help people find the best books to read?

If I’m being honest, launching a startup in the midst of a pandemic, during lockdown season, is no small feat, but equally true is that fact that there’s probably no better time to build something aimed at improving mental wellness through stories. Stories are powerful. They can transport us into another world, launch us into new experiences, and enable us to see life from new perspectives.
More importantly, stories can enrich and empower us to form deeper connections with others around us—an insight that inspired me to try a similar story-telling technique to bring our team closer together.

How Fable teams stay connected with virtual fikas

Many of us, including those in our company, have experienced extended periods of social isolation and have succumbed to some of the destructive effects of over-working, mindless scrolling through social feeds, and non-stop video calls. Fable’s response to this was to introduce the company-wide practice of fika as one way to help us all connect with one another on a deeper level.
Fika is where people come together to socialize, share stories, and connect with one another (traditionally, over a cup of coffee or tea, and some cake, or any type of food, really). Fika has been around for centuries—long before mask-wearing policies and social bubbles became household concepts—and it’s undoubtedly evolved over time. To meet our own needs, we evolved it once more, introducing fika as a virtual ritual for our distributed working environment.
Every Friday at 11am, a new fika topic is posted on the Fika Slack channel. People are invited to respond, react, discuss, and upvote others’ responses either in Slack itself or in Zoom—we alternate weekly. The originator of the week’s topic acts as the host, and people take turns sharing the hosting responsibility.
To encourage deep sharing, we avoid questions that can be easily answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Instead, we try to use prompts that start with ‘what’, 'share’, or 'if.’ And we try to pose questions that have nothing to do with work. Some of our favorite prompts include:
If you had all the money in the world and could go to school for one thing, what you would learn?
What true crime story do you obsess about?
If you could live in any fictional world - which one and why?

At the end of each fika, we have a huge collection of new books, movies, music, digital tools, vacation ideas, and other kinds of experiences to explore. Instead of scrolling mindlessly through social media or search engines, we crowdsourced amazing new resources. And best of all, we feel less isolated. When you share a great story with a friend or co-worker, you forge stronger connections as you discover new characters, places, and ideas together—an idea that’s at the heart of Fable.
Kim Marsh, who started as Fable’s Head of Community and Business Operations in March 2021, shared:
I wondered how I’d get to know and connect with colleagues who I don’t get the opportunity to work with everyday. Fika creates a comfortable, fun space for people to share their authentic selves. Whether it is hearing an anecdote about someone’s childhood days as a concert clarinet player, or discovering that a colleague shared my passion for Breville’s espresso maker, I always leave Fika feeling more connected to our team.

How to host your own virtual fika

I’ve been a long-time fan of Coda, having worked with Shishir Mehrota (Coda’s CEO) on the Spotify board. I was so impressed with how Spotify uses Coda to run many of their engaging and unique board rituals—so much so that I was eager to introduce Coda to Fable for many of our core documentation and workflow needs. In many ways, Coda has helped us promote inclusivity, engagement, and connections at Fable. I particularly love the idea of ‘
‘, a Q&A tool (appropriately named after the ) that makes it easy to crowdsource questions in an inclusive and un-intimidating way during meetings.
I recently approached the Coda team to help me share our ritual so that more people can discover the power of stories to enrich their teams and foster deeper connections. We built this doc as a starting point for running your own fikas.

Here’s how you can get started:

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- We’ve collected some of our favorite fika prompts. Feel free to add or adapt these however you want.
- With this simple way to automate fika on Slack, you can queue up and send prompts according to your preset schedule.

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