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Return to Work: Prepare Your Staff

Keep the lines of communication open as you open your doors.

Return to work safely

Are you ready to return to work? Don’t reopen without carefully considering the needs of your staff. They are your customers, too! Your approach to their well-being will trickle down to everyone who walks through your door. Prioritize supporting and preparing staff and they’ll be better positioned to welcome back clients.

Health and Wellness Check-in 

When preparing for the return to work, think first of the people who help you succeed. Let staff know how important they are to you and the business by asking about their health and well-being. Make sure they feel secure and sound enough to return to work. Don’t make assumptions! They may not be ready to return for various pandemic-related reasons, including childcare or elder parent care, for example. If this is the case, can they take on a role that can be performed from home such as outbound calls, social media management or program design?

You can easily gather information from staff by creating a simple survey with Google forms. Here’s a list of sample questions:

  • What do you need in order to feel safe returning to work?
  •  On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate your mental health?
  • Are you and the people you live with currently healthy?
  • Do you feel fully informed regarding reopening and new policies?
  • Do you feel supported by leadership?

Safety Training 

After you’ve completed a COVID-19 risk assessment, it’s likely you’ll have to completely change your standard operating procedures. Package these guidelines into an easy-to-read training guide that’s required reading for staff. Sanitation is going to be one of the biggest changes in procedure, so the cleaning list will be much more extensive than your team is used to. Clearly break down all the new protocols, including when to use gloves, how to properly use various disinfectants, the need to wear face masks, etc. 

See also: Leading a Team in a Hybrid Fitness World.

Re-Engage Staff 

One key to productivity is to keep your employees engaged and happy. If staff feel disconnected, they’re more likely to underperform. It’s your responsibility to keep them connected to the mission and vision. It’s also important to share updates about business operations to help quell anxiety. These are uncertain times, and many people are dealing with fear about job security, so let your employees know what your strategy is and be open to answering their questions. Re-engage them by listening to their ideas and opinions, empowering them to make suggestions about how to handle COVID-19 and customer interactions, and offering your support. 

Pandemic Protocol Updates 

Keep staff fully informed with updated pandemic procedures that cover many areas of concern, including what to do if a member or staff presents with coronavirus symptoms. For example, if an employee gets sick, will he or she be allowed to work from home? Will they be paid for sick leave? Have a plan in place for how you will deep clean the building should this occur, and have all the needed supplies on hand. 

Another consideration is what will you do if, heaven forbid, you have to shut down again. No one wants this to happen, but we’ve all learned how important it is to have a “disaster” contingency plan in place. Hopefully, you’ll be in a much better position than in 2020 if this were to happen.  It’s better to be prepared and overly cautious than it is to think that this will never happen again.

Highlight Hygiene 

From the start, be clear in your expectations regarding hygiene as staff return to work. Stress that actions such as regular handwashing and avoiding touching your face will be the norm. It’s always a good idea to lead by example, so if you follow your own rules and staff do as well, members will notice and feel encouraged to follow suit. 

You may want to consider hiring outside cleaners who specialize in high-level disinfection, depending on the size of your business and if you have a lot of high-touch areas and equipment. An alternative is to pay staff more to spend additional time attending to cleaning details. Don’t shortchange yourself on this, it’s a critical step toward safely reopening and giving both staff and customers peace of mind. 


masked personal trai

When preparing for reopening, think first of the people who help you succeed.

Update and Train Staff on New Guidelines

In addition to sharing new health and safety processes, you may also need to update staff about any significant changes, including the number of patrons allowed inside the facility at any one time and how you plan to enforce this. Take extra time to train staff on matters related to member safety. How will your team be expected to handle someone who refuses to wear a mask, for example? How will employees share the new policies with members? Role play tough scenarios and empower employees to handle difficult situations through practice with scripts that keep everyone in your organization on point.

It’s critical that staff have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs. Remember that your employees are not accustomed to engaging with members in this new way, so be patient and leave the lines of communication open. Customer service and positive engagement will help members feel good about following new rules. 

See also: Excellent Customer Service in the Digital Age.

Include Staff in the Process 

You will not be able to return to work successfully without the efforts and support of your employees. They are integral to your relaunch, so let them share their ideas and opinions. It may also be a good idea to vote on some items, or at least gather feedback. You can do this via a simple hand vote or by posting a simple questionnaire. As your reopening strategy comes into full focus, ask your team how they feel about the process so you can directly address and process discord. 

Staff Coronavirus Communication 

Your communication strategy is absolutely key to loyalty and morale. Create regular touchpoints with your staff and make sure they have the support they need. Be transparent, prioritize sound business practices and keep your team in the loop. You may want to use a communication platform such as Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams or a private Facebook group to keep everyone connected. Switch it up with emails, texts and good old-fashioned phone calls. 

Take your team to a new level with upgraded communication, openness and trust. Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your customers. 


Joy Keller

Joy Keller is the director of marketing communications & PR at IDEA, and has also served as executive editor of IDEA Fitness Journal, IDEA Fitness Manager, IDEA Pilates Today, and IDEA Fit Business Success. She is also a certified personal trainer, indoor cycling instructor and yoga teacher (RYT 200).

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