The abrupt shut down of many cities around the world due to COVID -19 has created shockwaves felt by Pilates teachers everywhere. Many studios have been forced to close their doors and pivot, implementing immediate changes to their business models in order to survive the crisis. In fact, lots of studio owners are still developing their strategies on a weekly basis and trying new ways to retain their clientele by offering a variety of remote services.
Having said that, many of our members have asked us to write about how to approach re-opening, when that time comes. There’s nothing wrong with devoting some thought to that. You’ll want to consider what steps to take to ensure you’re ready, that your staff is ready, and that things go as smoothly as possible.
First of all, retain the important habits of handwashing, use of sanitizer and no-touch receptacles for waste. What other protocols should you be thinking about to ensure working conditions and the physical space are safe and ready for the return of your staff and clients? Create a re-opening checklist to help you re-start your operations. You’ll want to be sure that no critical task is left unfinished as you welcome your clients and staff back to the studio.
Below are important tasks to consider adding to your list.
Prepare Your Physical Space
Post COVID-19 studios will most likely look different than before, as following physical distancing guidelines will probably still be necessary. When the time comes, check the CDC and your local and state government websites for the suggested amount of space between people and also the maximum number of people in a space.
Rearrange your reformers, chairs, barrels and other equipment to allow clients to safely practice Pilates. You may have to remove some equipment from your space to meet the guidelines. Consider other spaces such as your reception area and dressing rooms and remove seating, magazines, and other items that could spread germs and/or encourage people to gather. Also consider asking clients and staff to remove their street shoes outside the studio.
Make Changes to Your Equipment to Increase Hygienic Conditions
Not only is it important to properly clean your large equipment, mats, and accessories, you should also provide safer ways to use them. Consider ordering additional sets of loops for your reformers and trapeze tables that you can change between each client. If you have cotton loops, purchase vinyl loop covers. Putting vinyl loop covers on makes them easy to clean between clients. You can also encourage your clients to purchase their own loops to minimize the spread of germs. If you normally provide mats for your Mat classes, consider asking people to bring their own mat.
If you do not already sell all of these items at your studio, this may be an additional revenue stream to consider.
Implement Necessary Changes to Your Cleaning Procedures to Ensure the Safety of Your Clients and Staff
We all know we need to clean our equipment and our physical space, however, with all of the information out there it is sometimes hard to know if we are using the correct cleaning products to keep our equipment and our people safe. The CDC will have the best guidelines for you to ensure you are correctly cleaning and disinfecting your space.
Consider installing things such as hand sanitizer devices and high efficiency air purifiers to remove bacteria and germs from the air to promote a healthier studio environment. When cleaning your expensive reformers, chairs, and barrels, make sure to research recommendations for cleaning them and preserving the beauty of the wood, leather and vinyl.
Examine Your Pre COVID-19 Schedule
There may be restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather in one space or how close people can be to one another. Think about your work space and changes you may need to make to your class and private training schedules to accommodate the recommended spacing requirements. You may also want to allow more time between classes and private clients so you can properly clean the equipment and space as well as manage the number of people in your studio at one time.
Re-Open in Phases
Consider starting slowly to return to your normal schedule and open in phases. For example:
Week 1-2: Private sessions only with 1-2 teachers at a time in the space with clients.
Week 3: Add small group training and large equipment classes up to 5 people.
Week 5: Add in classes with more than 5 people and limit to a maximum of 10 people generously spaced apart.
If you are currently offering virtual classes, consider continuing with that for a few months and only offering small group classes with large equipment and private sessions in your physical space.
Review Your Operations Checklist and Budget
When you temporarily closed your physical space, you most likely suspended some services such as water delivery, cleaning, utilities and more. Look at your list and make sure to re-start all of the necessary services before you open your doors again to ensure a smooth re-opening. If you rented or loaned equipment to your clients, make sure you collect what you need prior to opening. Examine your budget to determine if there are some services and purchases you can cut to preserve your cash flow.
This crisis has affected your clients and staff both physically and financially. It is likely it will be several months until your business will return to normal capacity levels and revenue.
Inform Your Staff of the New Operating Policies and Procedures
Be clear of the expectations you have for your staff regarding cleaning, client interaction and adjusted work schedules. Make sure they are aware of the CDC and OSHA guidelines and that they are following them.
Communicate Clearly and Often with Your Clients
Staying in touch and being transparent with your clients is important more than ever before. Inform them of your re-opening plan, proposed date, new policies and procedures, and how your schedule is going to look. Consistent communication in multiple places such as newsletters, emails, and social media will ensure you reach everyone.
Think Strategically About Your Business
This is the time to think about how you might need to change your business or shift your focus to address the changes that are likely to occur in the wake of COVID-19. Are there other products or services you can offer that would make more sense given the crisis we will be emerging from? Perhaps you have been offering online and virtual programming. While these measures were taken in response to the COVID-19 crisis, it may take people a while to feel comfortable going back to their pre-coronavirus practices. Some clients may return to you for private sessions, but want to continue their additional virtual sessions from home.
Consider continuing to offer virtual services to grow this part of your business. Adapting quickly and efficiently to new ways of providing your great services is crucial to stay relevant and help you sustain your business going forward.