Knowledgeable and passionate about all things wellbeing, Sally is a certified yoga teacher, nutritional health coach and is the author of “The Wellbeing Guide to London”. Sally has hosted yoga and wellbeing retreats all over Europe, written for the Guardian, The Times and Code Nast Traveller and regularly speaks about wellbeing at workshops and events for the likes of Capital FM and Deloitte. We invited Sally to come and speak at our upcoming ‘Work Happy: Physical Wellbeing in the Workplace‘ event on 20th March, aka World Happiness Day. Before she comes and shares her wellness wisdom we thought we’d get to know her a little better and find out more about what Stretching the City offers…
Tell us a bit about yourself, what were you doing before you started Stretching the City?
I worked as a planner in a media agency, followed by a stint in the marketing department of a newspaper before ‘going freelance’ at just 25. Once freelance, I worked as a copywriter and marketing consultant, mostly for clients within the wellbeing industry – Yogamatters.com being one of my most long-standing clients. I also wrote about wellbeing for various publications and wrote a book, The Wellbeing Guide to London.
In your own words, what does Stretching the City offer and where did the idea come from?
Stretching the City is a corporate wellbeing company. We bring a slice of health, happiness and calm to busy workplaces with a variety of wellbeing offerings, ranging from massage, meditation and mental health workshops – to yoga, nutrition, sleep workshops and plenty more. We started in 2010 predominately offering corporate yoga and Pilates classes, and as our definition of wellbeing evolved, so did our offerings and client base.
What’s a typical day at work for you?
Unless visiting clients or meeting team members, I mostly work from home. My day will consist of pitching workplace wellbeing programmes to clients, working with our team of 100+ wellness teachers to develop new offerings, marketing, business development – and keeping in close contact with our Operations Manager, Helen to ensure our 30+ classes and workshops each week are going to plan.
How do you nurture a healthy work environment in your own business?
Since having my son 18 months ago, I have less time to work, so need to be disciplined about weaving some wellbeing in to my working day and not solely churning through work. I break up every working day with some kind of movement, be it a run, a home workout on FIIT or getting to a yoga class. I also drink lots of water, have healthy snacks on hand, don’t reply to emails after 7pm and generally switch my phone off and leave it downstairs from 9pm. I welcome flexible working amongst our team members and encourage them to fit work around their lifestyle and not the other way around.
What have your main challenges been starting out in a competitive industry? Have you had any mentors along the way?
I started Stretching the City in 2010, so we’re lucky to have had an established brand and loyal client base before there were that many competitors on the scene. Saying that, I don’t consider the workplace wellbeing industry to be particularly competitive – I believe there are enough clients to go around and the more businesses who are investing in wellbeing, the better.
In terms of challenges, securing adequate investment and support from senior decision makers can be a challenge in some industries. The effectiveness of wellbeing isn’t particularly straightforward to measure, so without an ROI, budgets can be held back. Thankfully, analysis of wellbeing programmes is improving and we certainly try our best to gather feedback and results following our workshops and classes. For many offices, a lack of physical space to host wellbeing initiatives is also a common problem.
As for mentors, I’ve predominantly worked alone, so have turned to podcasts, blogs and books for inspirational motivation. ‘How I Built This’ and ‘Monocle’ are amongst my favourite podcasts on entrepreneurship. Over in real life, I learnt a lot from Paul Walker, the late founder of Yogamatters.com and my boss for 5 years on growing a business with heart.
We’ll definitely be going more into this at our event, but what would you say is the biggest barrier that can interfere with wellbeing at work?
Predominantly, time and company culture.
Time: Wellbeing needs to be recognised as a necessity and not just a ‘nice to have.’ As workload and deadlines take hold, our wellbeing inevitably slides down the to-do list, leaving us feeling lethargic, worse for wear and far less productive than if we’d prioritised our wellbeing in the first place. There are 24 hours in the day and we need to consciously make some time each day for ourselves.
Culture: Companies need to promote and foster a culture where wellbeing at work is encouraged. Whether that’s hosting a lunchtime yoga class, providing smoothie makers in the office kitchen, or allowing a slightly longer lunch break to squeeze in a gym visit. Allowing staff the time to take care of themselves will not decrease their output or jeopardise their work. Far from it. Numerous studies have shown that when staff feel fit, healthy and well, their performance and productivity at work soars.
Many of our Work.Life members are still in the early stages of their business, what’s a piece of advice you’d give them about workspace wellbeing to take on board as they grow?
The early stages of a business can be so consuming and it can feel like there is simply no time for your wellbeing. Rather than claiming ‘I don’t have time’, acknowledge the profound benefits that exercising, self-care and eating well will have on your personal life and business – and then ask yourself ‘How can I afford not to take care of my wellbeing?’ Drinking more water, getting outside every day and taking tech breaks are the most obvious and simple, yet the most effective habits to practice.
Thanks for letting us pick your brain today, we thought we’d ask you the quick-fire round we ask all our interviewees…
Morning person or night owl? Morning person.
Favourite film: The Goonies.
Summer or winter? Summer.
Sweet or savoury? Sweet.
Cats or dogs? I’ve always had cats, but am desperate for a dog one day.
City break or beach holiday? A city with a beach.
Last meal before being jetted off to a desert island? A roast dinner with all the trimmings.
Want to find out more about wellbeing in the workplace? Come along to our next ‘Work Happy’ event, Work Happy: Physical Wellbeing in the Workplace at our London Fields space on 20th March. We’ll be hearing more from Sally, along with some other industry experts about the importance of workspace wellbeing and how you can make these positive changes in your business.