Once the pandemic restrictions are lifted, clubs/studios around the country will slowly start to reopen. Much of what I see published these days about plans for reopening is the importance of communicating with your members/clients. This IS very important. Not only does your facility need to take all of the steps necessary to create as safe an environment as possible for your members/clients, but you need to let them know exactly what you have done and will be doing. Their perception of safety is what will bring them back through your doors.
However, before that, you have to communicate with your team. They are going to have their own fears and concerns and if they don’t understand or agree with the reopening procedures, they won’t be able to pass that on to your members/clients.
Start by involving them in the discussion. Before you tell them what the new rules are, ask them what would make them feel safe in delivering their services. Ask them what they think would be important guidelines to put in place. Even if they come up with the same ideas that you had, if they say it first, there will be greater understanding and buy in. They may also come up with some items that you had overlooked. After they are satisfied with their list, ask their thoughts on any additional ideas that you might have had on your list.
Once reopening procedures are set, walk your whole team through the club/studio, mapping out how all of the new guidelines will be actualized. Answer all your teams questions thoroughly so that they are all on the same page and can communicate the guidelines to your members/clients. Document all of this in writing and/or video for their future reference.
Finally, role play potential challenges that may come up with members/clients. There are going to be members/clients that either don’t understand or don’t want to play by the rules. Role play these scenarios with your team and discuss the possible outcomes with them.
The best opportunity you have to get your members/clients back in your club/studio as soon as possible, is to have your team prepped, ready, and eager to help them with the transition into your facility’s new normal.
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.