Rebecca Schefstrom is the founder and owner of Urban Balance, a company focused on bringing yoga into the workplace. She sat down with Mindful Studio Magazine to chat about the company and the lessons she has learned when it comes to corporate wellness programs.
MS: How did you come up with the concept of Urban Balance?
RS: I had been self-employed for many years and had recently come out of a job working at a medical company. I remember always hurrying to my yoga class at night and often skipping because of one reason or another. Once I left the company and took some time to travel to India and reflect on what was next in my life, I soon realized I wanted to start teaching yoga as my career. However, I didn’t have a real desire to teach in a studio full time. I started off small with private clients, one-off events and working with hospitals. Finding balance within life, work and self-development are very important to me. I knew I wanted to reach people that might not necessarily go to a yoga studio, or were too busy with work or kids to take a class. I wanted to build a bridge between the corporate and the yoga world by bringing the studio to the workplace. I had a previous company that did the same service, but I was the only teacher. When I started Urban Balance, I realized this was bigger than me. I knew all these amazing instructors who were talented and passionate. Having a business background, I was eager to get back to the side of building and running a new business. I started focusing on getting the contracts and hiring independent contractors to teach onsite, and thus Urban Balance began to grow. It was very important to me to create abundance for like-minded teachers.
MS: What have you learned in terms of bringing yoga classes into the corporate world? What works well and what doesn’t?
RS: I learned each company is very different. It’s important to figure out what the company’s culture is and their wellness goals. Acquiring as much information as we can about what the employees are looking for in terms of classes and then finding the right times to have the classes so they will fit in their schedule. Making sure classes are accessible for all who attend is very important. Curating our offerings to the employee wants at each company works well.
MS: What are the pros and cons of being involved in corporate wellness programs? What advice would you give to studio owners?
RS: The biggest pro I see is that companies are talking more about wellness today than ever before. I believe wellness programs are really expanding right now. Education of what wellness is and the importance of investing wellness dollars for their employees has a far greater ROI than has been proven or easily traced. Wellness is a hot market right now, and it’s a good place to be. A common downside can be finding the budget dollars for wellness classes. Getting people away from their desk to participate in the class is also a challenge, so getting executives and managers behind the wellness classes and encouraging participation is key. Communication is important and how to get the classes marketed and out there for the employees to get involved in new classes.
MS: What are three things to keep in mind when building a schedule/class program for a corporate wellness program?
- Find out what the company’s values and goals are for their wellness program
- What do the employees want?
- Have a variety of classes and class times that meet the employees’ schedules.
MS: What are some key things to keep in mind when training teachers for corporate wellness programs?
RS: When I hire teachers, I look for qualities such as integrity, accountability, safety and people who shine in their own way. I always make sure to observe them teaching by auditing a class or attending one of their classes myself. It’s important to know that your teachers will be safe and teach to those who are in front of them. I look for how people do their sequencing, how they interact with students for safety or differing skill levels in the room. Finally, I always look for people who understand the power of what we are teaching and the way it can affect people’s lives. I know it when I see it.
MS: Why would you suggest yoga studios get involved in corporate wellness programs?
RS: I feel this is just the beginning with on-site wellness classes. There are a lot of businesses out there that are curious but still have not taken the plunge. It’s a great way to expand your business and touch people’s lives beyond the studio walls.