The national guidelines for reopening the country put gyms/health clubs/studios into Phase 1. As of Friday, some facilities opened in Georgia. How and if facilities were opening has been a huge discussion over the past week. Where do you stand and are you ready to safely reopen your business?
Our brick and mortar business, Jiva Fitness, is in Easton, PA. First, in PA, gyms are not in the first phase of reopening and I anticipate at least another month or two of being closed. However, now is a great time to talk about the considerations of how to safely open.
Let’s start by recognizing that there are the things we can do to prevent the spread of the virus and there are things we can do to increase the perception of what we are doing. What I mean by that is that if we just cleaned, sanitized, moved equipment, etc. and never said anything about it, people would not know how safe it is to come to our facilities. If we want our members/clients to return, we also need to show and tell them everything we are doing. Make everything visible and people will feel more comfortable. I’ve seen some great videos on the internet of clubs talking to their members/clients about what they are doing to safely reopen. That needs to be followed up by signage and by the constant assurance of the staff. (BTW, make sure your staff knows all that you are doing.)
Some things that can be done:
- Encourage members/clients to stay at home if they are not feeling well. Don’t assume that people are thinking about it. Post a list of symptoms at the door and have them do a mental checklist just to keep them on guard.
- Taking members temperatures at the door. Some facilities are doing this and others are taking staff’s temperatures. My thoughts? Not having a temperature does not mean they are not carrying the virus. It will create lines that will have to be controlled and spaced. One benefit of this, however, would be the perception of taking every precaution. This isn’t one that we’re going to implement at our facility.
- Wearing masks would help but remember, you wear them to not infect others, not keep yourself safe. Do you make this mandatory? If optional, it’s always the “inconsiderate of others” types that leave weights on the floor, restack weights improperly, leave sweat on machines, don’t wear masks, and sneeze and cough on everyone and everything. (no rant here 😉 ) I also know masks are uncomfortable and can cause skin irritation when working out. So, I honestly don’t know about this one and will have to make a decision when it gets closer for us.
- Washing hands on entry and exit seems to be a common precaution. While washing hands on entry would be good, this could also create lines that need to be controlled. As for washing on exit, I’m not sure how necessary or effective it is. For us, we don’t actually have a washroom in our facility, just one in the building’s common hallway. We will be requiring everyone to use the hand sanitizer on entry.
- Increase the HVAC circulation frequency and change the filter more often if you can. In our historic building, we only have a vented heating system and window air conditioning, so this isn’t something we can do.
- Increased cleaning schedule. Deeper and more frequent cleaning is needed for floors, equipment, all surfaces, door handles, drinking fountains (although, if we had one, I might turn it off), locker rooms, wash rooms, etc. This also includes having members clean everything that they touch/use (provide plenty of spray disinfectant and wipes or towels).
- Encourage members to bring their own water bottles and mats. Mats are so up close and personal, I think everyone would be more comfortable using their own.
- 6′ distance apart and then some. Be generous with space. Remember, “spray” can travel more than 6′. We’re probably going to allow less than half capacity in our studio.
- Have class equipment out and leave it out. Most studios have equipment located in one location where everyone needs to go to gather and take care of their equipment. We’re going to set up the equipment before class and, after they clean their equipment, members will leave them in place and we will switch the equipment for the next class.
- Plenty of signage to inform and set expectations. Never assume people know or remember what they should be doing. You can have arrows on the floor to direct traffic and lines to denote 6′ distances. Whatever will help members/clients follow your guidelines.
- Distance high fives. Keep the social distancing, but keep the social engagement (and maybe a little fun) happening.
Now, for us and many of you, it’s a sit back, wait and see. Then, when we get the official green light to reopen, we need to ask ourselves if we are comfortable with it. You need to feel very confident that opening will not put anyone at additional risk. In the meantime, get your reopening plan ready and make that decision when the time comes.
Best of luck going forward.