We’ve made it to Week 7 in this bizarre of existences and we do hope you are all keeping safe and well. Life is presenting some real challenges just now and we hope that you’re finding your own ways of managing those difficulties, staying positive and healthy and caring for those around you.
We’re proud of the work we do in our communities and we’ve been continuing to work hard to deal with the current situation. Here’s some of the things we’ve been up to.
We recognise that these are uncertain times and Clare and the People team and Vikki and the Payroll team have been working tirelessly ensuring that our colleagues are paid, enquiries dealt with and the Government’s extremely complicated Job Retention Scheme is worked through. We’re aware that the conditions of the scheme won’t have satisfied everyone; please be reassured that we will do everything we can to deal with your queries as fast as we can.
We’re determined to do everything we can to sustain the business over this uncertain period. We’re proud that we were able to maintain furloughed and working colleagues’ pay at 100% during April, although a difficult decision had to be taken to reduce this to 80% for our furloughed workers during May. This is a tough time but necessary for the future success of the business. We believe that the difficulty has to be shared and the Operating Board and Area Managers have all agreed to reductions in their salaries until the facilities re-open.
We’re immensely proud too of so many of our staff who are volunteering in our communities to ensure that those vulnerable and less fortunate receive the support and care needed during this time.
Local Authority Partners
Our Clients are experiencing their own challenges in maintaining vital services in our communities. We’ve been calculating for them the effect that this crisis has had on the leisure services that we provide for them. Steve and the Finance team have been doing an amazing job putting together those estimates (as well as having to prepare end of year accounts!). This forms the basis of the discussions we’re now having across all 40 contracts as to how our financial position can be protected during the closure and how we may work together in the future once the facilities re-open. What is clear is that the circumstances when we re-open will be different to how they were before and the arrangements with our clients may have to change.
We tried really hard to look after our customers once we closed by immediately freezing their membership payments and lesson fees. We were really ‘quick off the blocks’ thanks to our ‘Comms’ team and Andy and Steph have continued to be busy since we closed handling 100 plus customer enquiries each day.
Importantly, we’ve continued to have a customer engagement strategy designed to keep our customers active whilst they can’t use our facilities. We’ve provided online class content and special workouts thanks to our partners Les Mills and Technogym. Usage of the App has been great (10,000 customers make regular use) and we’ve developed a partnership with Les Mills that will see the class content remain FREE for our customers after 30th April – we’ve called it the Places Locker Virtual Studio. No other Operator in the UK has been able to offer that proposition. (It’s Free to you too, so please download and join in 😊)
We’ve streamed some live classes thanks to RT24, provided discounts on home workout equipment from Stronger Wellness and for the keen cyclists, provided free subscription to the RGT virtual platform. Our cycling ambassador and ex-Olympian, Bryan Steel, has also provided a free 50 Day training programme.
Most importantly, next week we’ll be gathering some important insight from our customers to gauge their attitudes towards exercise since we closed and their expectations of us when we re-open.
We’ve had a brilliant team of staff who have continued to carry out maintenance and safety checks at all our facilities. It is critical that we take care of the council’s leisure centres and our Places Gyms and ensure that they can be quickly re-commissioned when we are allowed to re-open.
Leisure Sector and Government
We’ve played an important role in influencing how the leisure sector survives and succeeds in the future. A number of our senior team have been part of sector-wide working groups, linking arms with our competitors to ensure that we have a single voice that is designed to exert pressure on the Government to support the re-opening (when the time is right) of the sector we all care passionately about.
We’ve put together a top team who are assembling the crucial plan that will enable us to re-open brilliantly and professionally, when we are permitted to do so. This is no easy challenge since it is highly likely that our operations will be very different to the ones we left in March. We’ll have heightened levels of hygiene and cleanliness, social distancing, controlled admissions and more limited activities and programmes. However, our aim is to ensure the safety and confidence of our customers and staff. We will develop a plan that establishes standards and expectations and enables site teams to execute the Re-Open phase professionally and impressively. It will simply consist of ‘What teams need to know’ and ‘What teams need to do’.
We hope that this update has proved helpful. We’ll continue to stay in touch and update you with all the useful and interesting things. In the meantime, please stay safe and healthy and please do not hesitate to contact us if you need support, assistance or just a chat.