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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

COVID-19: Surviving a COVID-19 scare

Your worst nightmare happens – a member with COVID-19 attends three group exercise classes in a period of 18 hours. Sarah Shortt explains how one operator dealt with this crisis while staying open throughout and avoiding community transmission

Published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 9
With the COVID-19 interventions already in place, the gym was allowed to stay open
With the COVID-19 interventions already in place, the gym was allowed to stay open
Many of us had worked in the business when the Christchurch earthquake occurred, so we know what the world looks like when things really go pear-shaped

Learning someone with COVID-19 has been in your gym is every manager’s worst nightmare, however, for the team at the Les Mills-owned Takapuna gym, in Auckland, New Zealand, this was something they’d anticipated.

On learning an infected member had attended three group fitness classes in 18 hours, they had an action plan ready to deploy.

Due to the effectiveness of their preparation and actions, no further cases were discovered – despite 86 members coming into contact with the infected member – and the club was able to remain open for business. So how did their four-part plan enable them to contain the virus and deal with the resultant media attention?

1. Plan ahead
“We took the pandemic seriously early on – talking about it back in January, which meant we were getting organised in February,” says Dione Forbes-Ryrie, MD of Les Mills New Zealand’s chain of 12 gyms.

“We started planning so early on that Exercise New Zealand, our bank, and even our auditor thought we were being over the top!

“But many of us had worked in the business when the Christchurch earthquake occurred – that had seen 24 per cent of our assets in lockdown for 12 months back in 2011 – so we know what the world looks like when things really go pear-shaped.

“When COVID-19 came onto our radar, our immediate thought was, have we got another Christchurch coming at us? We established a critical incident team so we were ready if and when lockdown hit.”

Ironically, Les Mills NZ was already planning to run a practice drill of a COVID-19 case in another of its clubs the week the real-life case was discovered in Takapuna. That meant plans were already in place and draft communications had been prepared for a variety of scenarios.

“This case was clear cut, but it could have gone either way if we hadn’t had processes in place,” says Guy Needham, head of marketing and sales. “Especially when you consider the person visited the club three times in 18 hours.”

2. Communicate
Maintaining timely communication with club members and staff was critical to ensuring everyone felt informed and cared for, as well as avoiding the spread of misinformation.

“Many members have commented on how much they appreciated the strong communications,” explains Forbes-Ryrie. “We were open and transparent, explaining what had happened and when people would be contacted by the Ministry of Health if the case affected them. We also ensured they heard the news from us first, rather than from the media.”

“We were also mindful to engage with our internal team,” says Needham. “We’ve got more contractors on our team, such as group fitness instructors, than we have employees, so it was important they were also kept up to speed with what was happening, because they’re often the people our members are talking to.

“If a member approaches one of our instructors on social media, we want that instructor to have one central source of truth they can refer the member to.”

3. Reassure members
Some members are naturally cautious about returning to exercise facilities after a case has been identified, but when members saw how seriously Les Mills Takapuna was taking the threat, attendances bounced back.

“Attendance declined to 58 percent after the incident,” says Forbes-Ryrie, “but it’s now back to 90 per cent as a result of us communicating the protocols we’ve got in place – as well as the fact we’ve been able to share the news that there have been no instances of club transmission.”

This dip is similar to that experienced after lockdown, when attendance dropped to around 60 per cent, but was back up to 95 per cent after three weeks.

“Confidence has been restored quickly – not only in our existing membership, but also in new prospects. Even with the case happening at Takapuna, the sales team achieved over 70 per cent of its monthly pre-COVID target,” she says.

4. Manage the media
The case generated a significant amount of attention from the press. So how did the business respond?

“We prioritised our members and internal teams,” says Forbes-Ryrie.

“Engaging with the media wasn’t the number one thing on our list, but we knew we needed to get our media communications right.

“We had a lot of requests for interviews but felt the best way forward was to provide comprehensive answers to their questions, so we did this with a media statement. We also set up a FAQs page on our website at www.lesmills.co.nz/covid-19, that answered a lot of the questions media outlets were asking, such as what we were doing around cleaning, and who might be at risk of contracting the virus. Again, it came back to being transparent.”

Forbes-Ryrie says the reaction from members has been incredibly positive. “We’ve had a lot of people commenting on how well cared for they feel – a letter was published in the New Zealand Herald the other day, praising how well we’ve handled the situation.”

Key facts
COVID-19 case management @Les Mills

• Eighty-six people were recognised as having been in close contact with the infected member who attended group exercise classes at Les Mills Takapuna.

• They immediately went into self-isolation and of these 86 people, all returned a negative result when tested for the virus.

• Due to the club having already conducted extensive deep cleans, the local authority advised it was able to remain open.

• Despite this, the company also conducted an additional full deep clean of the club, followed by an antiviral fogging treatment.

Key takeaways

• Keep ahead of the situation, be ready to act. Be proactive, not reactive

• Run simulations, stress test your systems, practice drills, identify gaps and fill them – make sure you’re ready to handle an incident if it happens

• Have a communication plan ready to go for each stakeholder group – members, in-house staff, freelancers, local authority and health inspectors – and keep these updated

• Organise regular inspections, keep in touch with local health authorities, so they know your baselines for COVID-19 control

• Establish a central ‘source of truth’ to avoid the spread of misinformation

• If the worst happens, focus your energies on looking after your members, your staff and the health authorities, while managing the media effectively by issuing clear statements and using a web-based FAQ

• Ensure your contact-tracing systems are working effectively and audit these regularly

• Track the recovery of member numbers and lovebomb members to reassure them and get them back to the gym

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Dione Forbes-Ryrie, MD of Les Mills NZ’s chain of 12 gyms and Guy Needham, head of marketing
Dione Forbes-Ryrie, MD of Les Mills NZ’s chain of 12 gyms and Guy Needham, head of marketing
Even with the COVID-19 case, the team achieved 70 per cent of its pre-COVID-19 target
Even with the COVID-19 case, the team achieved 70 per cent of its pre-COVID-19 target
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2020/515929_622650.jpg
What would you do if you found out a member with COVID-19 had attended your gym? One club tells its story
Les Mills Takapuna, covid-19, Dione Forbes-Ryrie, Guy Needham, New Zealand,COVID-19, emergency plan
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features

COVID-19: Surviving a COVID-19 scare

Your worst nightmare happens – a member with COVID-19 attends three group exercise classes in a period of 18 hours. Sarah Shortt explains how one operator dealt with this crisis while staying open throughout and avoiding community transmission

Published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 9
With the COVID-19 interventions already in place, the gym was allowed to stay open
With the COVID-19 interventions already in place, the gym was allowed to stay open
Many of us had worked in the business when the Christchurch earthquake occurred, so we know what the world looks like when things really go pear-shaped

Learning someone with COVID-19 has been in your gym is every manager’s worst nightmare, however, for the team at the Les Mills-owned Takapuna gym, in Auckland, New Zealand, this was something they’d anticipated.

On learning an infected member had attended three group fitness classes in 18 hours, they had an action plan ready to deploy.

Due to the effectiveness of their preparation and actions, no further cases were discovered – despite 86 members coming into contact with the infected member – and the club was able to remain open for business. So how did their four-part plan enable them to contain the virus and deal with the resultant media attention?

1. Plan ahead
“We took the pandemic seriously early on – talking about it back in January, which meant we were getting organised in February,” says Dione Forbes-Ryrie, MD of Les Mills New Zealand’s chain of 12 gyms.

“We started planning so early on that Exercise New Zealand, our bank, and even our auditor thought we were being over the top!

“But many of us had worked in the business when the Christchurch earthquake occurred – that had seen 24 per cent of our assets in lockdown for 12 months back in 2011 – so we know what the world looks like when things really go pear-shaped.

“When COVID-19 came onto our radar, our immediate thought was, have we got another Christchurch coming at us? We established a critical incident team so we were ready if and when lockdown hit.”

Ironically, Les Mills NZ was already planning to run a practice drill of a COVID-19 case in another of its clubs the week the real-life case was discovered in Takapuna. That meant plans were already in place and draft communications had been prepared for a variety of scenarios.

“This case was clear cut, but it could have gone either way if we hadn’t had processes in place,” says Guy Needham, head of marketing and sales. “Especially when you consider the person visited the club three times in 18 hours.”

2. Communicate
Maintaining timely communication with club members and staff was critical to ensuring everyone felt informed and cared for, as well as avoiding the spread of misinformation.

“Many members have commented on how much they appreciated the strong communications,” explains Forbes-Ryrie. “We were open and transparent, explaining what had happened and when people would be contacted by the Ministry of Health if the case affected them. We also ensured they heard the news from us first, rather than from the media.”

“We were also mindful to engage with our internal team,” says Needham. “We’ve got more contractors on our team, such as group fitness instructors, than we have employees, so it was important they were also kept up to speed with what was happening, because they’re often the people our members are talking to.

“If a member approaches one of our instructors on social media, we want that instructor to have one central source of truth they can refer the member to.”

3. Reassure members
Some members are naturally cautious about returning to exercise facilities after a case has been identified, but when members saw how seriously Les Mills Takapuna was taking the threat, attendances bounced back.

“Attendance declined to 58 percent after the incident,” says Forbes-Ryrie, “but it’s now back to 90 per cent as a result of us communicating the protocols we’ve got in place – as well as the fact we’ve been able to share the news that there have been no instances of club transmission.”

This dip is similar to that experienced after lockdown, when attendance dropped to around 60 per cent, but was back up to 95 per cent after three weeks.

“Confidence has been restored quickly – not only in our existing membership, but also in new prospects. Even with the case happening at Takapuna, the sales team achieved over 70 per cent of its monthly pre-COVID target,” she says.

4. Manage the media
The case generated a significant amount of attention from the press. So how did the business respond?

“We prioritised our members and internal teams,” says Forbes-Ryrie.

“Engaging with the media wasn’t the number one thing on our list, but we knew we needed to get our media communications right.

“We had a lot of requests for interviews but felt the best way forward was to provide comprehensive answers to their questions, so we did this with a media statement. We also set up a FAQs page on our website at www.lesmills.co.nz/covid-19, that answered a lot of the questions media outlets were asking, such as what we were doing around cleaning, and who might be at risk of contracting the virus. Again, it came back to being transparent.”

Forbes-Ryrie says the reaction from members has been incredibly positive. “We’ve had a lot of people commenting on how well cared for they feel – a letter was published in the New Zealand Herald the other day, praising how well we’ve handled the situation.”

Key facts
COVID-19 case management @Les Mills

• Eighty-six people were recognised as having been in close contact with the infected member who attended group exercise classes at Les Mills Takapuna.

• They immediately went into self-isolation and of these 86 people, all returned a negative result when tested for the virus.

• Due to the club having already conducted extensive deep cleans, the local authority advised it was able to remain open.

• Despite this, the company also conducted an additional full deep clean of the club, followed by an antiviral fogging treatment.

Key takeaways

• Keep ahead of the situation, be ready to act. Be proactive, not reactive

• Run simulations, stress test your systems, practice drills, identify gaps and fill them – make sure you’re ready to handle an incident if it happens

• Have a communication plan ready to go for each stakeholder group – members, in-house staff, freelancers, local authority and health inspectors – and keep these updated

• Organise regular inspections, keep in touch with local health authorities, so they know your baselines for COVID-19 control

• Establish a central ‘source of truth’ to avoid the spread of misinformation

• If the worst happens, focus your energies on looking after your members, your staff and the health authorities, while managing the media effectively by issuing clear statements and using a web-based FAQ

• Ensure your contact-tracing systems are working effectively and audit these regularly

• Track the recovery of member numbers and lovebomb members to reassure them and get them back to the gym

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Dione Forbes-Ryrie, MD of Les Mills NZ’s chain of 12 gyms and Guy Needham, head of marketing
Dione Forbes-Ryrie, MD of Les Mills NZ’s chain of 12 gyms and Guy Needham, head of marketing
Even with the COVID-19 case, the team achieved 70 per cent of its pre-COVID-19 target
Even with the COVID-19 case, the team achieved 70 per cent of its pre-COVID-19 target
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2020/515929_622650.jpg
What would you do if you found out a member with COVID-19 had attended your gym? One club tells its story
Les Mills Takapuna, covid-19, Dione Forbes-Ryrie, Guy Needham, New Zealand,COVID-19, emergency plan
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promotion
While much of the fitness industry has reopened its doors across the UK over the past weeks, many members are yet to return.
Opinion: Re-engaging your post-lockdown absent members
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Cryotherapy specialists, L&R Kältetechnik, launch new artofcryo.com division
L&R Kältetechnik has launched a new division, named artofcryo.com, after 30 years’ experience with -110 °C electrical solutions.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Celebrating the return of group exercise – Les Mills to host free ‘Fastest Way Back’ livestream event for the industry
Last month (May) saw the welcomed return of group exercise classes. Group exercise is the heartbeat for so many clubs, with in-studio and instructor-led live experiences at the pinnacle.
Featured operators news
Featured operator news: Everyone Active generates £342m in social value
Award-winning leisure operator Everyone Active generated £342million in social value at its sites across the country in 2019/20.
Featured operators news
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Parkwood Leisure, one of the UK’s leading public leisure facilities operators, helped prevent more than 7,000 cases of stroke, dementia, depression and type 2 diabetes in 2019, saving the NHS £16 million, a new social value report has shown.
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Company profile: Life Fitness
The Life Fitness family of brands offers an unrivalled product portfolio, providing customers with access ...
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Company profile: Les Mills UK
For over 50 years Les Mills has been leading the way in fitness to inspire ...
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Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Spa software
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Architects/designers
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Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
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Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
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Diary dates
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Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
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Locations worldwide,
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2021
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
28-29 Sep 2021
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
04-07 Nov 2021
Exhibition Centre , Cologne, Germany
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates
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