As Household Managers begin returning to work, they are going to be tasked with many new responsibilities. The expression “Walking / Working Manager” is taking on increased saliency as households recover from the real psychological scars created by COVID, quarantine and pandemic fears (which are ongoing).
A Manager who sits behind a desk, removed from household activity, is no longer going to fly with employers. Nor should it.
Employers will expect Household Managers to create new standards and procedures that reflect the heightened requirements of the times. Managers will need to double-down in the areas of:
- Educating themselves on industry best practices for keeping homes safe for families and their staff
- Assessing whether a professional in training domestic staff to new standards for safe home environments is required. These professionals are out there and they know their stuff. Many come from hospital backgrounds and are highly qualified and are being employed by restaurants, corporate offices, etc. They have fantastic methodology, pay attention to workflows and do not miss a detail.
- Developing SOP manuals (written in layman’s language so that all can understand) on new best practices for keeping families, workers and homes safe. This should include otherwise unusual protocols like safety measures for travelling to work and properly preparing for a work shift.
- Correct personal sanitization protocols to follow while at work (i.e. frequent hand-washing, new forms of cross contamination, masks, introduction of new cleaning products, etc.)
- Training (with augmented attention to sanitization procedures and identifying “hot spots” within the home — telephones, keypads, switches, remotes, door handles, appliance handles and controls, etc.) staff to the new SOPs. As with all effective training — Repeat, repeat, repeat.
- Increasing vigilance: Is staff following new standards and procedures? If not, why not? Is more training required? Was the initial training flawed and does it need tweaking?
- Increasing the frequency of meetings to repeat key messages to ensure the safety of the household, its inhabitants and the people who work within it
- Establishing new protocols for vendors who enter the residence and who come into contact with staff members. These protocols need to be communicated to vendors in advance so that their teams can be trained and informed. Household staff also need to be informed and trained to these standards. It is the job of the Household Manager to ensure that the protocols are being followed.
- Augmenting the acknowledgement given to employees who are learning the new standards and protocols and following them closely
During periods of uncertainty, reassurance is important and a Household Manager will play a pivotal role. For example:
- Employers will want reassurance. More frequent and detailed reporting is one way to accomplish this objective.
- Employees will also want reassurance. They will want to know that they are performing to the new standards. Once again, ongoing communication is key.
While reassurance might share qualities with motivation, they are not the same thing. A Household Manager will need to double down in order to motivate their team and reinforce the message that conveys why following new standards and protocols are important, not just for the safety of employers, but also for staff safety. It will require a level of managerial leadership that surpasses previous performance levels. Staff will be looking towards their Managers for guidance during uncertain times. So might employers. Household Managers are going to need to rise to the challenges that lie ahead.
Empathy has always been a quality one seeks in a Household Manager. The new work environment will require amped-up empathetic skills.
And why is that? While domestic staff will be needing motivation and reassurance, they will also, at least initially, be unsteady on their work feet. Household Managers will need to check in with staff on a regular basis; ask them if they are doing okay; check to see if they have what they need for their work; listen carefully to anxieties they might be experiencing outside of their work environment. Empathy is always important. It will be doubly important during the initial period as households endeavour to return to some semblance of normalcy.
While good Household Managers already follow many of these management techniques, it is the substance and circumstances that are changing. And by no means is the above list an exhaustive one.
As a Recruiting Firm, we will be looking for the newly informed Household Manager. A Manager who seems indifferent or ill-informed is likely not going to be presented to the client. So we all have homework to do and that includes Recruiters knowing the right questions to ask of candidates. We too have an obligation to be presenting candidates who are tuned in to the times and have adjusted accordingly.
Today is not like yesterday. The good news is that Household Managers have proven to be a highly adaptable and resilient lot. Through the years, they have adapted to cultural changes, technological advances, economic upturns and downturns, demographic shifts, transfers of wealth and so much more and they are still standing. There is no reason to believe that Household Managers will not or are not already coming to terms with the differences between today and yesterday.
Written by Scott Munden, who is the CEO of Portico Inc – Portico help private families around the World source high-quality domestic professionals