How to Manage Your Studio Staff During COVID-19

Right now, the world is changing. People are confused, overwhelmed, and scared. These are the situations that test us, as individuals and as business owners. It’s a challenging time for you, but it’s a challenging time for your staff.

Keep the lines of communication open! You should still be planning weekly meetings with your teachers and staff. Reach out to them. Let them know you have their back.

Truth → For your staff, feeling supported is the most important thing right now.

This is a stressful time for yoga teachers and other studio staff. They don’t know what their paycheck will look like as your studio is changing. They may be tempted to jump ship.

Be the leader your staff members need.

The specific ways in which you can support your staff may depend on your local area. It will also depend on if they are contractors or employees. Check the laws and see what the options are. Then have an open conversation with them about it.

Yoga studio staff may benefit from unemployment programs. They may be able to work limited hours for the studio while on unemployment. Those details will vary by state and country. Take the time to find out all your options… and theirs.

Truth → Your staff are probably hearing a lot of confusing, contradictory information.

They might be scared. They’re definitely uncertain. Show you want to support them by doing the research on your local laws. Come prepared to confidently lead them through this crisis.

Cut your expenses.

Moving forward, cash flow is going to be tight for your yoga studio. Payroll is one of your biggest costs and, unfortunately, you need to make changes. There are a few things you can do to ease that burden.

The first is simple: your payroll is going to shrink organically as you switch to online classes.

Instead of running a half-dozen classes every day, you’ll probably be running two or three. With online classes, there’s no need for three hot yoga classes in a day – one live class, with a recording available later, is enough.

You might also need to change your pay structure. Paying a flat rate per class? Consider changing your class pay structure now that you’re online only. Your teachers are investing less time in each class and may be working from home. 

Be honest, but control the narrative.

Talking about changing your studio staff’s pay structure will be hard. No one wants to talk about a pay cut, especially during a period of financial instability. It will be a challenge, but your approach can make it a lot easier.

Don’t come in and say “We’re cutting your pay per class in half.” NO ONE would respond well to that. Instead, start the conversation by focusing on how important your staff is to the studio, the members, and you personally.

Explain that your teachers’ pay will be different. Break down their per class pay into something hourly. When your teachers had an in-person class they were also expected to be in the studio to set up, clean up and talk to the students.

That time was included in their per class payment – it wasn’t just the 90 minutes they taught the class. Now they have limited set up, and the classes are probably shorter. It makes sense that their per-class pay is less when you look at it hourly.

Remind your staff why they love yoga.

No one decides to teach yoga classes for the money. Everyone who works at your studio is there because they believe in the life-changing power of yoga. Challenges like this one have the power to pull people together and unite them around a common cause – like yoga.

Truth → Your staff might surprise you with their willingness to do what it takes to keep the studio going.

Ensuring your staff feel cared for and supported is crucial right now. They’ll remember what you did for them during this time. Be the leader they need. Struggling to adjust your studio to social distancing rules? Confused about what to do next to keep your studio running? Get The Ultimate Studio Survival Guide during Social Distancing so you can respond with confidence and keep money coming into your studio during this time. Take action now to get our special PAY WHAT YOU CAN pricing. Click here to get started! 

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1 Comments

  1. I trust the suggestions made in this article are coming from a good place – a place that wants to see studios survive the pandemic and make it out on the other side. As an instructor, I share that sentiment; without studio spaces, most teachers wont have the facilities in which to teach group classes.

    But I believe cutting teacher pay is probably the absolute last thing that should be done, due to the overarching effects it could likely have on the general pay scale within this industry after the pandemic.

    Over the last decade, within my particular methodology, I’ve seen the average class pay go from $70/90 minute class (with a receptionist to sign in students and do administrative tasks) to $40/90 minute class and the instructor is responsible for check in, admin, & clean up. I’ve taught in studios across the world, and this seems to have been the trend – your instructor is responsible for more within the studio, giving more of their own time outside of the class itself, and getting paid much less.

    This could be happening for many reasons, potentially in part by the saturation of yoga teacher trainings within the industry – so now everyone and their mom, cousin, and auntie are calling themselves yoga teachers because they did a weekend yoga teacher training. With this phenomena, you’ve got a high supply of cheap (albeit inexperienced) labor for yoga studios. On top of this, many yoga studios consider themselves in competition with gyms and other strictly “fitness” style studios, and thus have driven the cost of monthly yoga memberships WAY down. I believe that this false competition yoga studios have placed themselves in with gyms has irrevocably devalued the yoga industry as a whole, and by proxy the teachers that it consists of.

    You mention in this article that it’s more effective to speak to your teachers about a pay cut if you talk about it framed within the idea of “hourly” compensation – because now they dont have to “set up”, or are potentially “working from home”. Unless you are someone who can keep their recording equipment set up at all times, usually there’s at least 15 min I spend to set up the camera in good light, frame, etc. And I am available for the students 15 min before I start teaching the class. So in total that’s 30 minutes of time before the actual class, that I spend to ensure the best quality of class for the studio, and even more importantly for the students. After an hour of instruction, I stay on for at least 15 minutes to answer any questions, or socialize as people like to do. In comparison to normal operations, this online variant *might* take 30-45 minutes less of my time. AND now I’ve recorded my class, which the studio will be able to offer to the student base for their own personal use – and you think it’s fair for a teacher to do this at a pay CUT??

    Why would you suggest that because people are working from home they should get paid less? Are you assuming its somehow more comfortable to teach yoga classes admidst the day to day chaos of any normal household? Is it under the assumption that the quality of instruction is lesser because it’s no longer face to face?

    To be totally transparent, I probably make about $12/hr after taxes. I’ve been a dedicated practitioner for over 10 years, teaching full time as my only source of income for 5 years. I have 500+ hours of education from my original TT, and over 200 hours of continuing education alongside that. I have been mentored by instructors who had been teaching for 15-20 years.

    So your suggestion of breaking it down hourly, and somehow thinking that will make a drastic pay cut easier to swallow just makes it clear that all the time I have spent exploring myself with my practice, expanding my knowledge with trainings and seminars, being open to guidance and criticism to become a better teacher – is monetarily worth the same as many entry level jobs.

    No, theres not many of us doing this yoga thing solely for the money. (Im sure theres also not many left like me, who’s sole means of making money is thru yoga.) But that doesnt mean that I’m willing to forget that I’ve spent A LOT of time, effort, money, and energy to develop my craft. Nor does it imply that just because I love what I do, that I wouldn’t want to be compensated fairly based on my experience and skills.

    Through this pandemic, structural imbalances have been made apparent, within a variety of industries. Maybe it’s time we start to look at the imbalances that have infiltrated the yoga community, and use this time to shape the future of yoga – as a physical culture, as a viable healing modality, and as an ethical and integrous business practice.

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