The wait is over. After two long months of being under stay-at-home orders, eating your quarantine snacks, and being subjected to countless virtual meetings, the lockdown has been lifted and many cities and states are deeming it safe to reopen gym studio doors. And even with excitement coursing through our veins, many of us are nervous about what comes next. Never fear, we’ve got a resource for that. As you gear up to reopen the doors to your gyms and fitness studios, take advantage of our checklist for how to successfully reopen your gym after COVID-19.
Determine When to Reopen
Now that your state or city official has lifted the stay-at-home order, we know you’re pretty eager to reopen your doors and get back to working out and training in the gym. But just because you’ve been given the all-clear and others are opening their doors doesn’t mean you should rush to get students back on the mats just yet.
There are many factors that need to be explored first. Take a moment to check-in with yourself, your students, and your staff and find out what they’re feeling and if you’re ready to open. Knowing the risks of opening and what steps need to be taken before opening is important, too. Financial services and business consulting company CBIZ suggests performing a thorough risk assessment before opening your doors.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what is right for you and your business. Don’t let the eagerness to have income put you, your students, or your business at further risk.
Check Out CDC and Local/State Laws
We all know that knowledge is power. Before opening your doors — and even well after you have, stay up to date on the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) ever-evolving guidelines. In addition to that, get familiar with your local and state laws as they continue to change due to COVID-19. And don’t just read about them, do them.
Touching base with other schools in your area is a great way to get ideas on different measures you can implement within your own facility. The sky’s the limit on what information they can share; from news updates you may have missed, to which cleaning products are best to use, to ideal class sizes and between class buffer times.
If you’re looking for assistance to help your studio get back on track, try applying for aid through the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). Tax savings from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, as well as the Main Street Lending program and other tax credits, are additional options for business owners, too. And if you aren’t able to apply, don’t get discouraged. Just be sure to keep an eye out for more alternate funding resources that may become available as Congress continues to search for more ways to help small businesses.
Have a Plan
Flying by the seat of your pants is definitely not a good way to make an impression after the quarantine has been lifted. Now is the time to be level headed; carve out some time to map out a plan to take your business in a new direction. Set a date for when you would like to reopen, then write or type out your plan. You want to be thinking about the two to three weeks before you open, giving yourself plenty of time to readjust and solidify your game plan before customers return to the gym. Create a chart — because sometimes having it all in front of you brings clarity — then decide what you want to keep doing and what you want to change. Revisit your annual goals, nail down details like your class size, or how you want to go about daily operations.
Throughout the weeks prior to your reopening, stir up excitement by updating your website, using social media to fill in your audience, sending welcome emails, and doing fun things like issuing a challenge to your students and staff to aid in shaking off the rust and regaining focus.
Lastly, consider what your plan will be after you reopen. Reach out to the students you haven’t yet heard from and get a feel for where their head is at and reassure them of any concerns they might have about returning. If you’ve been doing virtual training, we highly recommend continuing those efforts. Tweak small things within the process, though, such as the frequency of videos or adjusting content to reflect that your school has reopened.
As you prepare to reopen, make sure you communicate any changes that you’ve made to your studio. This includes new business hours, any changes to scheduling appointments and registering for classes, and new rules, regulations, and protocols they need to abide by if they want to train or work with you.
First on your list of communication should be your employees. Many gyms temporarily laid off or furloughed their staff to be able to cut costs, keep the business afloat, and reduce health risk, so it’s only natural to get them back in the gym once the stay-at-home order has been lifted. American financial software leader Intuit recommends reaching out as soon as possible, even if you’re not ready to reopen just yet. This gives them time to get their affairs in order and make arrangements with their new jobs if they had to seek employment elsewhere. Fill them in on your situation and plans of execution and be ready to have a conversation about topics like their salaries and health insurance benefits.
The more information you can provide to your staff and customers before they set foot in the gym, the more confident and trusting they will be in you, and the more likely they are to return.
Communication is also crucial because you may have a fair number of students who don’t immediately return when your doors open.
Update Your Liability Waiver
Post-quarantine finds us in new times, and these new times require a new kind of waiver. Before your grand re-opening, be proactive and update your liability waiver to include language that removes liability to your business should someone contract the virus. Also consider adding an indemnity agreement to your current waiver as well, detailing that if they are responsible for knowingly causing risk to other guests in the gym, mainly exposing them to COVID-19, then your facility has the right to sue. Taking these proactive measures won’t guarantee you 100 percent immunity of liability, but it will dramatically reduce the chances of legal action.
And because readers tend to gloss over the legalese in documents like terms and agreements or contracts (let’s face it, we’ve also been guilty a time or two) we advise highlighting the new wording added to your waiver so that they’re less likely to gloss over it. Another tip is to give your customers more time to read the updated waiver by putting it on your website or sit with them if they opt for signing in person. You want to ensure that they understand what they’re consenting to before they join class.
Train Your Employees
Many of us know what the symptoms of COVID-19 are, but do we know how to identify them? Can you tell if the shortness of breath your student is experiencing is related to the virus or asthma? What about the type and consistency of cough you’re looking for? These are important facts for you and your staff to know. A week or more before you open your doors, be sure to arm your employees with a protocol to help them recognize the symptoms, how to use protective clothing and equipment, the methods of transmission, and what to do if they think there may be a case of the virus in your studio.
If you have gym or martial arts software in place, now is the time to train your employees on non-contact attendance tracking features like Kicksite’s Mass Check-In feature. Staff can either track attendance for each student as they enter the studio or by checking everyone in at once after they’ve been vetted by fellow staff members.
Screen Your Staff
Businesses are allowed to open, but that doesn’t mean the threat of infection has gone away. No one is exempt from being at risk of carrying the virus or being infected by it, so implement screening stations for your students and your staff as they come in the door. Invest in tools like a no-touch forehead thermometer or a UV-C mobile device sanitizer to have on hand to further protect everyone who frequents your gym. Anyone who is feeling sick, student or employee, should stay home and self-quarantine until they are back to full health.
Update Your Studio’s Cleaning Protocol
Although COVID-19 has taken cleanliness to new heights, there’s always room for improvement. Before opening your studio’s doors, we recommend revising your cleaning and disinfecting plans by consulting the CDC’s guidelines. The goal is to not only provide your students with the best possible experience but also reinforce that you have their safety in mind as they train.
Fitness chain Gold’s Gym has stated that post-lockdown they’re implementing a daily “intermission,” dedicating an entire hour for staff to disinfect the gym. 24 Hour Fitness plans to do hour long training blocks, followed by 30-minute closures to clean and disinfect. In addition to daily “intermissions” so that you can deep clean your gym, there are extra steps you can take. Remove benches and seating areas in your gym to reduce the temptation to have more than 10 occupants present at a time and limiting equipment is an excellent way to reduce the amount of time you may need to take to clean. And as a way to increase accountability, enlist your students to wipe down any equipment they touch and help you research ways that you all can accommodate vulnerable individuals who train with you.
Although, business as usual, has a new meaning, you can come out of the gates swinging. With our checklist as a resource, you’ll have a successful reopening and add new tools in your arsenal to keep your gym thriving months down the line.