It’s the most frigid time of the year, yet with the holidays behind us studio members are braving the cold to stick to their fitness resolutions. But what happens when horrible weather gets in the way? Regardless of where you live and what weather patterns you may be dealing with—from wildfires or flooding to snow and ice storms—how should your studio or gym handle situations that make driving dangerous and force you to close?  When and how do you communicate your studio or gym’s closings? Here are some tips that will help you determine your studio’s inclement weather policy:

Communicate to your studio or gym members that weather may sometimes force you to close.

While this may be stating the obvious, as soon as you see a pending forecast, make a point of sending an email to members and staff that says that with inclement weather on the horizon, you may need to close early, have a delayed opening or remain closed all day. Let them know where to look for weather updates (read on for crafting a communication procedure). Emphasize that the safety of members and employees is your top priority when making your decisions. In addition to sending an email, post a copy of your message wherever you post news and announcements at your studio (such as your front desk area or on a bulletin board).

Emphasize that the safety of members and employees is your top priority when making your decisions.

Establish general guidelines around when you’ll close.

Make a list of example scenarios in which you would shut down. Will you follow the local public school’s cue and close when they do? In snowstorm situations, will you wait until the road leading to your studio has been plowed to open? Setting general guidelines about your inclement weather policy is not scientific (and will ultimately need to be decided on a case by case basis) but it does manage member and staff expectations. Be sure to share one of these scenarios as an example in your email to the studio community.

Craft a procedure to determine how you’ll let members or employees know when you’re closing.

For employees: Establish a group text or email thread for staffers (everyone from instructors to the front desk crew) to let them know if/when you’ll be closed. Make sure to give your team at least two hours’ notice before your studio or gym is scheduled to open again. It’s also a good idea to pre-determine who your skeleton crew would be if you do open after a weather event. Who lives the closest? Who has four-wheel drive? Talk to your team and make a short list of employees and instructors who would most likely be able to come in the soonest after a storm.

For members: Make a list of ways to let your studio or gym community know you’ll be closing. Some examples:

  • Post it on your studio’s Facebook page and pin it to the top. While Facebook is the ideal platform for weather updates, be sure to post the news on other platforms where you’re active as well. Have a few winter images or graphics ready for Instagram and use the same message on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  • Update your website’s homepage at the top in bold letters so it won’t be missed. Keep it short and sweet: “Snow, snow, and more snow! Unfortunately, our studio is closed today due to the weather. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates on when we will reopen.”
  • Make sure you update your studio’s answering machine message remotely with news that you are closed or will have a delayed opening or early closing.

Offer make-ups for classes or sessions that were canceled at the last minute.

Be sure to personally email any members who have scheduled personal training sessions to let them know you will be closed and work with them to reschedule. Be clear about which group classes are canceled and whether they will be rescheduled for late. For example, if your studio has a delayed opening, would a popular morning class be moved to the afternoon and how would that impact the evening schedule? Moving classes should be done on a case-by-case basis but the most important thing to remember in situations like this is to communicate with members. Good outreach and clear communication amounts to great customer service which will always be remembered. 

What if the weather is brutal but your studio remains open?

Understand that even if you are able to keep your studio open, not everyone will be able to make it from wherever they live. This is the time to be more flexible and understanding with your cancellation policy. Offer to schedule make-ups for anyone who has to cancel last-minute due to the weather.  You could also share the following message on social media if you’re open during inclement weather: “While the studio will remain open, you may decide that from where you live your drive is too hazardous.  Please do not drive to the studio if you feel it is unsafe!” Showing your willingness to accommodate the customer will go a long way. In the end, the most important message you’ll need to communicate to both employees and members is that their safety is your top priority.