Running a home is like setting up a small business. The same structure, hiring, and operational complexities are involved when it comes to domestic staffing. For many of today’s families, having household staff is not a luxury but an essential part of their lives; whether it’s childcare, home management, or the supervision of multiple properties.
The organisation and make-up of your home staff is unique to your individual needs and lifestyle. Having the right support in place saves you time and worry, and it ensures the smooth running of your homes. However, a common problem families face in staffing their home is not hiring enough domestic employees.
What Happens When the Jack-Of-All-Trades Burns Out
It’s tempting to want to find that one magical employee that can take care of everything; from kids’ meals to scrubbing floorboards to managing household renovations. The truth is, that magic employee will burn out quickly and leave you with work unfinished or improperly completed. When they do leave, you will be back at the beginning of a hiring search.
Much like managing your own busy schedule, when you try to do everything and don’t delegate tasks, the final outcome can be compromised. Above all, you want staff that are focused on their tasks and providing quality service to your life.
That is not to say, you should hire staff that aren’t adaptable and flexible to life’s many twists and turns. For example, nannies sometimes take on general house cleaning or errand running while the children are in school. Housekeepers may prepare a small meal or serve guests.
These are reasonable responsibilities that a household worker can take on, as long as it is outlined in the initial hiring contract. A housekeeper hired to clean and care for your home and fine furnishings, may not be open to, or skilled in, cooking. Try to think about what your needs are at the outset of your search, so that you will recognize the perfect staff when you meet them and not overwhelm them after they have begun their position.
Being respectful of each staff members unique skills and duties will result in happier staff that are more invested in your home and will remain in your employ for years to come. For example, you may be tempted to have your nanny scrub the bathroom while she is “on-the-clock” to maximize her time, but your nanny is hired and compensated for her expertise in childcare and that should be her focus.
How to Structure Your Household Staff
It can be difficult to fully grasp how much work is involved in household positions. For larger homes, a house manager will be able to assess the home and determine what staff is appropriate, as well as manage the hiring and training process. When working with BAHS, our recruiters will work with you to understand your home and recommend the best solutions for your staffing needs.
A good way to begin determining what staff your home needs is to divide tasks into three main categories: childcare, cleaning, and management.
Childcare encompasses any position dealing primarily with the children. This includes nannies, governesses, tutors, newborn care specialists, and maternity nurses. Again, some general tidying and meal prep as it relates to the children are perfectly reasonable expectations for these roles, but no deep cleaning or home management.
A nanny will have a substantial amount of childcare experience and will sometimes hold a degree related to childhood education, such as Early Childhood Development or a Master’s degree in Education. Some specialize in specific age groups such as infant or school age. Those who specialise in school age children are often closer to the governess category and will often be qualified to tutor certain academic subjects.
Nannies that specialise in newborn care have extensive training and experience with newborns, infants and toddlers. They will understand the specific needs of each child’s development stage and be able to navigate each stage’s unique challenges. Newborn nannies are often referred to as newborn care specialists, maternity nurses, or baby nurses.
Cleaning fine homes is a very specialised skill. Common duties for a housekeeper include: laundry, pressing, ironing, cooking, clothing care, wardrobe care and maintenance, couture clothing care and household organising. Basic cooking or meal prep responsibilities are sometimes given to a housekeeper as well as general errand running.
The difference between a housekeeper and a cleaner is the housekeeper’s ability to organise closets by color and season, organise the home in general, and a deep understanding of clothing care (steam, dry clean and hand wash). They will understand formal service, which includes serving, formal table setting, and flower arranging. An executive housekeeper will have experience working on a team and managing other staff, usually in a formal townhouse or other similar large high level residences.
A lady’s maid is a female valet who attends to the needs of the lady of the house. Her duties range from helping with dressing, makeup and hair care to maintaining fine clothing, shoes, while keeping her room and study in perfect order.
A houseman’s responsibilities could include maintenance and other general work around the home, cooking and stocking the kitchen, wardrobe maintenance and travel packing and serving guests.
Management positions are necessary for larger homes with multiple moving parts and staff members. A house manager will be able to coordinate renovations, plan events, and train other staff.
Where there are large, multiple homes, the estate manager is the “Chief of Staff” of the entire household, carrying out the wishes of the principals at each location. Estate managers will have broad policy making authority over all household and estate operations, and manage extensive property and staff issues on a daily basis.
A domestic couple is commonly hired to look after a seasonal or secondary property. Their responsibilities include (but may not be limited to): maintenance, cooking, serving and driving. They are either given a separate cottage or provided a separated living area for the full year. Together a domestic couple can run one large home successfully and can often save the employer from needing to hire multiple staff.
A house manager is typically responsible for all staff in a single property. Their responsibilities may also overlap with those of a butler, property manager or personal assistant. They deal with vendors, preempt maintenance issues and ensure the smooth running of the household.
Professional butler duties often vary and may include, but are not limited to, managerial responsibilities, keeping accounts, marketing, and maintaining the wardrobe for the principals of the residence.
A personal assistant role can vary from managing the family calendar, being in charge of personal shopping, planning events, paying bills and arranging travel to handling investments and philanthropic accounts, and even working in the office of the family business.
The Benefits of Working with a Domestic Staffing Agency
Having the right support in place saves you time and worry and ensures the smooth running of your homes. For some homes, especially larger estates or families with multiple members, the best support may be achieved by hiring multiple professionals to work in your home.
Because every family’s needs are different, our commitment as your domestic staffing agency is to provide expert service that saves you time, ensures all details are in order and matches household staff that compliments your home and unique needs. We believe that if both sides of the placement – family and staff – are satisfied in their placement, the relationship will be happier, more successful, and longer-lasting.
Contact our office to begin your hiring process here.