So many business owners are facing uncertainty due to the COIVD-19 crisis. Will your business weather this period of being closed down? How well can you recover once you reopen? What are the best ways of minimizing financial losses and maximizing health and safety standards for your staff and members?
The best way to combat this uncertainty is to drive forward with a clear and determined strategy for reopening. This strategy should focus heavily on enforcing stringent health, safety, and sanitization protocols.
When you take the guesswork out of your plan, you reduce your own anxiety as a business owner and you make it clear to your customers that you have everything properly handled. Maintaining that confidence conveys to your members that they will be safe to return to your gym once the stay-at-home orders are lifted.
Your plan may or may not incorporate these exact strategies. Feel free to adjust these guidelines as you see fit. But if you’re in need of a solid starting point, try hitting all of the following steps in crafting your plan for reopening after COVID-19.
Decide whether you can have some staff members work from home
Anyone who manages client rosters, member profiles, finances, or any other work that can be completed online should work from home for the duration of the outbreak if possible.
Don’t underestimate the value of video chat software during this time. Front desk staff can still provide a friendly face to members walking through the front doors, even if that friendly face is greeting people from a tablet screen.
Some trainers may even choose to do Skype/Zoom video training sessions rather than come into the gym. You could set up a few tablets around the gym for this purpose so members can come in and complete training sessions with their trainer without having to meet physically with the trainer. This strategy keeps your gym population lower while allowing your members to get back to their normal scheduled training sessions.
Bring your non work-from-home staff back to work a few days before reopening for special training sessions
The world will be very different than it used to be once businesses begin to reopen. With these changes comes a whole new level of training required for your staff.
Especially if you choose to implement new cleaning and sanitization protocols to keep everyone as safe as possible, you will need to keep your staff members updated on the procedures.
In addition to all of the new rules for keeping the facility clean, consider holding training sessions to teach your staff about new issues they may face when working with the public. You might want to address…• Conflict resolution in situations where tensions are high• Managing members who feel worried or paranoid about getting sick• Managing members who don’t take the cleaning or distancing protocols seriously enough• Properly wearing and disposing of masks and gloves• Taking the temperatures of members (and other employees) entering the building• Maintaining privacy for those having their temperatures taken• Making sure members and staff all feel safe• Addressing concerns of members and staff who would like extra safety measures
Decide how you would like to limit contact between members
Consider phasing in sections of your facility at certain times or restricting the number of people allowed in certain areas.
You might choose to open the weight room in the morning and the cardio section in the afternoons. Or, you could open all workout areas at once, but leave the café, merchandise shop, and spa areas closed until further notice.
You may want to limit class sizes and place tape on the floor to indicate a safe distance between class members. To compensate for smaller class sizes, you may charge more per person, which will also dissuade large numbers from joining. Or, charge extra for the most popular time slots, which would encourage those who can rearrange their schedules to spread out into lower-density time slots.
Employ some creative solutions for keeping distance between people when normally they might come into close contact. Zip tie a number of lockers closed, for example, and then leave every fifth one open for use. You might also block off every other treadmill to keep people from jogging alongside one another.
Provide solutions for immunocompromised members
Not everyone will be able to safely return to normal even if they see you taking extra precautions to keep distance between exercisers and putting strict sanitization protocols in place. For those with weaker immune systems, additional measures will be required.
If your gym has a large number of elderly members or people with compromising health conditions, consider offering a few time slots during the day where only those members can come in and work out. Limit the number of people coming in during these time slots so that no one needs to be in close proximity. Also, make sure to allow enough time before these special time slots to properly clean and sanitize all equipment in preparation for immunocompromised people to safely come in and touch surfaces.
Stock up on essential gear for the post-COVID-19 era
Your gym probably already has plenty of cleaning supplies left over from the days of normal operation. This is great, but you will likely need to bump up your supplies by several notches, both in quantity and cleaning power.
The goal is to always have the necessary and appropriate cleaning materials on hand without having to resort to subpar options like wiping surfaces with a dirty cloth or using wipes on barbell handles because you’ve run out of spray.
Make sure you have a significant supply of the following:• Masks for your staff to wear whenever they are at work• Masks for members to wear if they choose to• Gloves for the same purposes• Cleaning spray and disposable cleaning wipes• Disposable or take-home towels, so members don’t have to use laundered towels• Paper towels for bathrooms and equipment cleaning stations• Hand sanitizing stations• Additional sanitization methods – consider for example using portable UV lights to clean equipment, chairs, carpeting, and other high-use areas• Warning tape to keep areas of congregation closed off or limited so large groups can’t gather• Zip ties to close lockers• Tape to mark appropriate distances on the floor during classes
It’s important to note that with the shortages of cleaning supplies and other necessary items, you might find it difficult to keep a full supply of everything you will need. Resist the temptation to cut corners. The health and safety of your members and staff should be of paramount importance during this time. You will eventually be able to buy cleaning supplies in bulk again; until that time, limit your gym population to levels you can appropriately clean up after.