Fighting Fit: Planning For Reopening

Have you started planning for reopening? While the Government is yet to make any clear announcements around the reopening of leisure facilities, now is the time to ensure your reopening plans are comprehensive and well considered. So when the time comes you are in the best possible position to welcome members back.

With doors closed for over a month now, operators of all sizes are feeling the strain. The future strength of your organisation will be defined by the reopening plans you put in place now. The Government has not yet issued guidance for leisure facilities on when reopening will be possible and under what operating conditions. It is highly unlikely that it will be business as usual when you reopen.

Thinking through possible scenarios and restrictions that may be in place will allow you to quickly make well considered choices as soon as more is known.

Four-Stage Reopening Strategy

When planning for reopening, it’s vital to closely follow official guidance that is being given and to look to key industry organisations for insights into best practices.

On 23 April, ukactive announced that it was working in partnership with public health experts and organisations from across the health and fitness industry on a four-stage strategy to support reopening:

  1. Business model research – new research has been undertaken to provide business modelling which will allow decisions to be made based on the latest intelligence and financial viability of reopening
  2. Framework for operators – a clear framework has been put together for leisure operators to guide plans for reopening. This is has been reviewed by public health experts and ukactive councils and forums who represent operators of all types and sizes – Download the ukactive operational framework
  3. Launch public information campaign – as well as providing operators with assets to help reassure members and customers, ukactive will launch initiatives to inspire the public back into leisure facilities
  4. Policy support – as always, ukactive will engage with the Government to ensure policy decisions support the leisure industry with additional or extended financial support measures, as well as regulatory and taxation changes, as needed to meet operating conditions

Key Questions To Explore Now

Many of our clients have already started exploring what reopening may mean for their facilities and how best to go about altering operations to meet possible restrictions.

It can be difficult to know where to start, so we’ve outlined key questions you should be asking yourself now.

What restrictions might you need to plan for?

A useful starting point is to explore the possible restrictions that could be in place when you are able to reopen and to plan around certain scenarios:

  • Social distance – you may need to ensure that physical distance is maintained between members and employees.
  • Geographic differences – for larger operators, some locations may be able to open before others (for example, maybe more remote facilities will be allowed to reopen before city centre facilities). Likewise, different operating conditions may apply in different locations.
  • Age groups – certain age groups may be allowed to return to leisure facilities before others.
  • High risk groups – those categorised as high risk may not be able to return as early as other groups.

What operational considerations do you need to make?

Once you have considered the different scenarios that may apply to reopening, you can look at operational implications:

  • Reopening process – it is not clear how much notice operators will receive ahead of reopening. However, you can map out the processes that will be required to reopen so you understand how long your organisation will need when reopening. You may also consider whether all the facilities at your location(s) will open at once or if some should remain closed for longer. This will allow you to quickly communicate reopening dates to members when the time comes.
  • Financial viability – undoubtedly restrictions will have a financial impact on your organisation. Exploring the possible financial impact of different scenarios will allow you to understand adjustments that might be needed.
  • Employee requirements – consider whether you will need all employees to return at once, especially those who have been furloughed. Look at whether roles and responsibilities will need to be adjusted. Training may also be needed in some cases – explore whether this can be delivered before reopening. If you have employees who will remain furloughed, consider what your course of action will be should Government support not continue upon reopening.
  • Software and technology functionality – look at your existing software to see what functionality is available that would support possible restrictions that might be in place. Consider options that would support any limits around entry and whether you may need to look at new software and technology platforms.
  • Promotional and marketing activities – consider how you will communicate reopening and any new practices in place to members. Plan out promotional activities for recruiting new members. It’s also important to ensure you appropriately and successfully address any concerns that apprehensive members may have.
  • Digital or virtual at home offerings – if you have introduced digital fitness services since closure, explore what these will look like after reopening. It may be that members will look to incorporate regular at home or out of club activities into their future. Therefore, it may be worthwhile considering continuing these once you reopen if practical.
  • Response to reported cases of COVID-19 – you should ensure you are well prepared with an action plan for what will be required should there be a reported case of COVID-19 amongst someone who has recently visited your facility or an employee. Consider what cleaning will be required, closure periods, member communications, and membership payment implications.

What changes might you need to make to cleaning practices?

Upon reopening, it is likely that you will need to pay close attention to the latest advice issued by the Government around cleaning practices. You may have put additional measures in place before closure which may need to be continued or increased:

  • Frequency of routine and deep cleans – consider whether to adjust the responsibilities of some employees to facilitate increased or changed requirements. Plan out any additional inspections or monitoring that might be required. Look at whether you will need to perform deep cleans with increased regularity.
  • Cleaning supplies and protective equipment – ensure you have or are ready to source adequate cleaning supplies to meet expected requirements. Don’t forget your employees, you should be ready to put in place appropriate protections to prevent exposure to COVID-19.
  • Areas that are difficult to keep adequately sanitised – fully review your facilities and equipment to consider if there are some areas or items which will need to be closed or removed. For example, if you have spa facilities how will these be managed or perhaps your exercise mats are difficult to sanitise so an alternative solution may be required.

Key Membership Payments Considerations

For organisations collecting membership payments via Direct Debit there are a few key considerations to keep in mind:

  • Frozen memberships – where memberships have been frozen, either by you or the member, you will need to decide (in line with your membership terms) when these are to be reactivated. Keep in mind that notifications and submission timelines may apply to some or all members based on various criteria.
  • Virtual memberships – if you’ve launched paid virtual or at home workout options whilst closed you should consider whether to keep these running once you reopen and how to approach this with members from a payments perspective.
  • Cancelled Direct Debits – if your members have cancelled their Direct Debit with their bank during the closure period, you may want to follow up with these members directly.

Fighting Fit

We are passionate about the health and fitness industry and believe your strength is key to the successfully overcoming COVID-19.

Your plans now will impact your ability to bounce back when the time comes. Get in touch with our team to learn more about how Harlands Group can help you optimise membership payments.

Our COVID-19: Resources & Useful Links page gives details of helpful support at this time. As a fellow TSG solution, we are offering you access to a 3-month free trial of TrueCoach with no commitment necessary – find out more about TrueCoach.