Sweden took a very different approach to the coronavirus pandemic compared to the rest of the world. The government didn’t shut down business operations, opting instead to increase education and share guidelines with its citizens.

Annie Fältman, owner of 360 Träningscenter, which has four locations in Sweden, described this approach as empowering to the Swedish people in a recent interview. Much of what Fältman experienced over the past few months is what more clubs are now experiencing as they start to reopen with new policies in place.

We asked Fältman a variety of questions about her clubs remaining open.

Watch the video above or keep reading for an at-a-glance look at the lessons Fältman shared.

  • 0:31 - What was it like being open during the pandemic?
  • 1:43 - How are you reassuring members?
  • 3:14 - How have members reacted?
  • 4:12 - What does the future of the industry look like? How do we become more inclusive?

What was it like being open during the pandemic?

Fältman says that from the start, the Swedish government had a clear message: “stay in if you feel sick and wash your hands.”

360 Träningscenter has implemented policies at all four locations, such as:

  • cutting back on group exercise classes and capacity,
  • encouraging members and staff to keep their distance, and
  • encouraging handwashing and use of hand sanitizer.

How are you reassuring members?

“Information, information, information,” Fältman says. She suggests verbal and written communication is crucial to maintain order within the club and set member expectations.

She also cautioned to not cut corners. “To all operators, wherever they are in the world, it's going to be so important to follow government guidelines—every one of them—because if members see that you're slacking on one of them, they're going to wonder what else aren’t you doing properly.”

Fältman recommends encouraging staff buy-in on your new policies. Staff are role models in the club and should be following new policies visibly, including washing your hands, using hand sanitizer, and respectfully keeping your distance.

How have members reacted?

“The members have really been taking care of each other and have been really compliant with what we have asked them to do,” Fältman says.

She noted that more of her members are coming during off-peak hours, and Fältman believes it is to avoid crowds.

Interestingly, Fältman says that business has not seen a higher demand for digital content in Sweden. While online options have increased, Fältman is confident that members will want to come back to the gym over the coming year.

“I think once gyms are back up and running—if it's in a year or in two years—people still want to come to the clubs,” she says. “We are more than just a facility. We are someone you want to meet in person, you want the high five, someone to push you.”

What does the future of the industry look like? How do we become more inclusive?

Fältman says things are going to change from "I should be exercising" to "I have to exercise."

This experience will place a heightened demand for health and wellness. The way we communicate will also change as the industry takes steps to become a more inclusive environment.

Fältman said she hopes the industry will build trust and become a resource for overall health. “...I think it's going to come down to the way we communicate. Who do we want to be as an industry?”