Fitness clubs across the country are eagerly awaiting to reopen their facilities. Some are opening their doors for the first time in over a year. Others had reopened in 2020 only to close again after the most recent COVID-19 surge. And others, operating at limited capacity, are now readying to move closer to full capacity.
At all these clubs, there are certain to be changes in the look, flow and policies that once defined operations, as well as a learning curve for returning staff and customers. How do clubs make sure they are ready? Here are four tips to reopen safely and smartly.
- Train and retrain new and current staff. When clubs reopen, it’s unlikely they will look the same or operate in the same way as they did a year ago. That means staff will have a lot to learn about new procedures, as well as handling customers who have their own perceptions about safety. Since staff are the face of a club, it’s important to make sure training is thorough. Whether it’s training new employees and retraining current employees (some who may have been furloughed), taking the time to get everyone up to speed and ready to greet customers is a wise investment.
- Consider customers when re-examining layout and design. Clubs have made many adjustments over the last year to accommodate masks, physical distancing and other state-mandated COVID-19 requirements. But it’s also important to consider the comfort level of customers. Many people, though eager to hit the weights or treadmill, may be hesitant to return to public spaces. So take a look at the spacing of equipment and the flow of traffic in and out and around facilities to make sure it provides the peace of mind customers want.
- Make cleaning and disinfecting a visible, daily routine. The pandemic has made clubs pay particular attention to cleaning and disinfecting their facilities. But it’s also important to remember cleaning protocols should go beyond hygiene and consider perception, as well. Many customers will want the peace of mind that comes when they actually see staff cleaning equipment and other surfaces on a regular basis.
- Set expectations by communicating clearly with customers. From masks to physical distancing, not everyone agrees on COVID-19 protocols. That’s why it’s important that clubs communicate often and clearly with customers about their protocols. This way, customers will know what will be expected of them — and what they can expect of their club. Send communications that review what’s new and what’s not, focusing on the newest health and safety measures and why they’re being implemented. If done well, such communications can reduce misunderstandings and facilitate a positive experience for returning customers.
Brian Rawlings is Practice Leader for FITLIFE, administered by Venture Insurance Programs. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-282-6247 ext. 323.