SoulCycle to offer trainer-guided virtual work sessions with the FLOWN startup

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FLOWN is a startup that took the idea of the sort of ‘virtual co-working’ some of us during the pandemic just have some company during lockdowns, and created a model of guided “deep work” sessions with actual coaches. Billing itself as a ‘Twitch for work’, the platform says it works best with remote-workers, of which there are now millions, of course. Last year it raised a Seed round to take the idea to the next level.

It’s now partnering with iconic exercise brand SoulCycle to bring its “energizing workout” methodology to the masses.

SoulCycle-led focus sessions – called “Flocks” – will be available to all SoulCycle and FLOWN members starting June 26th.

One of the most recognized wellness brands globally — best known for its spin classes that border on a religious experience for some — SoulCycle is clearly tapping into a new area where charismatic ‘trainers’ can motivate a group in a new setting.

FLOWN already runs 50+ live focus sessions a week, led by their own facilitators, where professionals and students work silently together, on-camera, using a technique called ‘body doubling’.

If you’ve ever preferred to work in a library, cafe or co-working space alongside other human beings, you’re doing something that comes pretty naturally, and is often more motivating that working at home on your own. Indeed, during the pandemic, many of us found ourselves switching on Zoom to work silently alongside friends of colleagues, just for the company.

This natural behaviour has now evolved into a burgeoning new area for startups, and even now has it’s own nomenclature. So-called “body doubling” is the act of working alongside someone else, and is said to provides focus, accountability and feeling of community.

This trend of virtual, guided coaching seems to be gaining momentum and is morphing from fitness and exercise (witness SoulCycle’s move with Flown) into other forms. Peoplehood, led by SoulCycle founders Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice, is poised to launch “gathers” where strangers discuss their deepest hopes and fears.

Body doubling has also become popular over the last few years as way to alleviate the effects of ADHD, the rates of diagnoses for which have skyrocketed post-pandemic.

Although body doubling has ben recommended to people with ADHD, others are picking up on the technique. FLOWN claims its subscribers report a “5x increase” in their productivity as a result of a session — although it was not to independently verify this claim.

SoulCycle Instructors will now join FLOWN’s “Flocks”, injecting SoulCycle’s brand of motivation into the platform. These communal experiences can range from decluttering one’s home, to completing tax returns, or practicing an instrument.

Alicia Navarro, Founder and CEO of FLOWN said in a statement: “In a post-COVID, AI-saturated world, there is a deep need for accountability structures that leverage real humans and secular rituals. I started FLOWN to bring these structures into how we focus at work, and SoulCycle’s approach was an inspiration to me at the time.”

I asked Evelyn Webster, CEO of SoulCycle what the tipping point was that secured her decision to work with Flown?

“When Alicia and I were chatting about each of our respective businesses it became quickly apparent that we share a common purpose – to help our community live their best lives. With so much overlap in our purpose – and at a point when SoulCycle was looking to more actively engage our community in ways that move beyond the bike – the partnership seemed a natural one,” she said.

What does she make of this new “body-doubling” trend?

“I think whatever helps people succeed is great! As I have learned more about how body doubling has helped many people gain greater focus and therefore productivity, it’s clearly a tool that works. And of course when we ride as a community at Soul, what is keeping us accountable? It’s the instructor guiding us through a class, together with 60 other riders in the room keeping you focused, on beat and fired up…so we know it works.”

And why does she think Soul Cycle customers will gravitate towards FLOWN’s product?

“Wellness is so much more than just physical fitness. Our community is always looking for ways in which to make themselves stronger, whether that’s on the bike or in other parts of their lives. We believe this is a great addition to our offering, and a natural extension for the brand,” she added.