Hiring Private or Household Staff in the Wake of a Pandemic

When news of COVID-19 spread and countries around the world entered lockdown it almost felt like everything stopped. People stopped going to the office, kids stopped going to school, and people put a halt to most of their plans around travel or being social.

The outside world may be at a standstill, but the inside world of your homes is busier and more vibrant than ever. Having household staff you can rely on is important at any time, but it’s especially important when we’re in a pandemic.

Remember, vaccine availability and lessening restrictions don’t mean that you’re safe from COVID. That’s why we’re here to give you the insight you need to find the right staff.

Are you thinking about hiring professional staff? Keep reading if you’re ready to learn how to bring on the right staff to manage your homes during these trying times.

Understand Who You Need

Before you start looking for new staff to bring on (or thinking about who to let go), consider what services are essential for your properties going forward.

You know that your chief of staff is indispensable, but could you do without your estate manager? You don’t think you need your butler at certain properties. However, you’re on the fence about how much you’ll be using your driver.

It’s possible that you may not need to have as many cooks on staff because you won’t be hosting large events, but you may still want to keep your head chef for more intimate affairs. Some people may have never considered having a private chef on the grounds, but now that catering could be dangerous, you may feel safer with having someone you can trust prepare your food.

Take time to look at what’s coming up on your personal calendar, and be sure to pay close attention to quarantine restrictions in your area. Having insight into both matters can make it easier to determine what you need.

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Understand Your Comfort Levels

Do you only want to bring in staff that has received the COVID-19 vaccine? Would you be comfortable bringing in someone that has had COVID-19 in the past, but has since recovered? Do you want your staff to change into their uniforms on the premises or bathe then change to ensure they aren’t bringing in germs?

You’re the boss when it comes to your private staff, and now isn’t the time to be lax about setting boundaries. Take time to really think about what you and your family will need to stay safe and work with your staff effectively.

Some people feel safer making temperature checks mandatory before people can report to work. Others may consider setting up hand sanitizing and mask disinfecting stations in each room staff to ensure maximum safety.

Alter Your Interviewing Process

Hiring someone to attend to your personal properties and help you and your family isn’t a simple process. Extensive background checks need to be performed, multiple interviews need to be held, and you need to find a way to test their skills.

Unfortunately, COVID has made it difficult to perform some of your usual hiring activities. Luckily for you, there are plenty of ways to still properly screen people to add to your domestic staff.

Moving to a hybrid interview format can help save you time and help keep everyone safe. Consider holding some preliminary interviews over video calls instead of doing them by phone. When you add the camera element you can learn a lot about potential hires from their body language instead of having to go only by tone.

It’s only natural to want to have one in-person interview so you can test their skills and see how well they’d interact with you and the rest of the staff. We recommend trying to keep people as far apart as possible. Choose a very large room so people can meet comfortably, or consider setting up different areas to keep people separate.

You may find that there are some skill tests that you don’t need to be present for. It’s possible to closely inspect a potential laundress’s washing work and ironing skills once they’ve finished, and you can easily eat food prepared by a chef without being there to watch them prepare it. Consider having someone else supervise the tests and coming in after to inspect everything.

Consider Creating a Staff Bubble

You’ve heard a lot about the importance of social distancing and only being close to people that don’t have a lot of interactions in the outside world. That can be easy enough for the family, but things get tricky when it comes to private staff.

What happens if a staff member goes out over the weekend and brings COVID with them to work on Monday? Would you be comfortable having staff in your homes that are in group living situations or have to use public transit to get to work?

For the time being, you may want to consider only hiring people that are comfortable staying on the grounds while they work. You could come up with a schedule so that employees have plenty of time to quarantine before they come into work if you’re concerned about spreading the virus.

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Find Household Staff the Safe Way

Instead of leaving the safety of your family and in the hands of others, consider working with a professional staffing service that can get you the help you need.

Working with a private staffing company is more important than ever now. We won’t just help you find professionals that can meet your rigorous standards for security and safety. We’ll help you find people that take COVID-19 as seriously as you do and keep your family’s well being top of mind.

Are you ready to find the help you need? Contact us today so we can start finding the best way to meet all of your private staffing needs.

Safety Protocols for Private Staff Entering Your Home

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How are high net worth (HNW) private staff employers getting the personal and household services needed and keeping themselves safe?

Employing private staff services for your home and personal needs can be effective if proper observations, safety measures, and new techniques are part of the mix of management and employment practices, in addition to mutual respect. Accommodating transitions, changing situations such as travel, staying abreast of new Covid information, and being kind and caring to your staff enhances the safety results and experience for all.

If you are relocating to another residence, you have the decision to either bring staff with you or hire locally.  

Practical safety includes:

  • Live in vs. Live out
  • Agreement on procedures with disinfectants
  • Changing of clothing when entering and leaving home
  • Select rooms where work is allowed
  • New staff quarantine for two weeks before starting work
  • Establish protocols for individuals entering your home

Interviewing new private staff candidates:

  • Engage private staff recruitment companies to select best fit candidates
  • Interviews through video calls- Zoom, Facetime, etc.
  • Questions: how long have you been symptom-free?  Have you already had Covid-19?  Have you tested positive for the antibodies?
  • If there is an option for Live-in, discuss the arrangements and safeguards
  • Discuss extra duties during the time of virus lock downs
  • How will your staff service needs change post-Covid?

Whether you are hunkered in your bunker, at the beach in the Hamptons, or staying in your main home in Greenwich, thinking through your options, researching best safe practices and extending your plans and rules to your household and personal staff will result in a healthy and happy exit from this time of invisible risks.  

For further information and a discussion of employing private staff safely, please call Stephen Candland at Private Staff Group 203-856-7811 or email: stephen@privatestaffgroup.com.

For more information about New York’s Covid-19 recommendations for domestic employers, please click here.

What to Look for When Conducting Background Checks for a Private Staff Employee

When you are looking to hire a domestic employee, you need to be able to trust them. Depending on their job, they will have access to valuable things such as personal assets or money. Because of this, it is a necessary precaution to conduct a thorough background check on candidates. Whether it is a criminal record or a driving infraction, you should know what a candidate has done in the past and if this will affect their work.

Of course, a criminal check is the first thing to consider. Anything that comes up in a criminal check should be taken seriously. Any record of violence, theft, substance abuse, etc. should be thoughtfully considered. An applicant who has been background checked should have signed a release, making it reasonable for you to reach out to them and discuss anything you find.

In addition to this, if the candidate will have access to cash and credit cards, it is important to run a credit check on them. Note their creditors and assess the difference between a candidate who went through a financial hardship in their life and fell behind compared to someone who has erratic spending habits and is clearly living outside of their means. Allow the candidate to explain their situation, what steps they have taken to correct any issues, and their plans for next steps.

A bad driving record is also something to consider. If the candidate will be driving you or your family regularly, such as a chauffeur or nanny, any blemish on their driving record can indicate carelessness and could be putting the lives of you and your family in danger. There is a difference between running a red light after maintaining a clean record for 10 years and a consistent pattern of bad behavior: when in doubt, always trust your gut. It is never a bad idea to speak with the candidate about any issues you see and see how they react or explain themselves.

Another area to consider is employment and education verifications. Major differences in these can be an extremely negative sign. A falsified background means not only is this candidate potentially unable to perform the duties set forth in the position but can indicate some bad qualities about their personality and morals in general.

Particularly in domestic situations, security is paramount and if anything seems untrustworthy, it should not go without discussing openly with your applicant. You should discuss any discrepancies you find during your background check with your candidate. There are situations where the candidate may be able to explain themselves, however, if you do not have a good feeling about something you find, it is best just to find another candidate who will make you feel at ease.

About Private Staff Group

There are important pre and post-employment considerations when hiring private staff such as nannies, personal assistants, estate/household managers, housekeepers, etc. Private Staff Group performs exhaustive profiling assessments on all candidates, sharing results, references and background checks. To learn more about our process we invite you to contact us today.