Monday, June 30, 2008

How to Have Cleaning Help in your House

For various and sundry reasons people may choose to hire cleaning help for their homes. MII had a recent posting on how to wash your floors. In the posting and in the comments were many comments that people refuse to have cleaning help or have it any more because of bad experiences with the people who were doing the cleaning. The help got too personal, they were bossy, they stole things, they didn't clean right etc. I've heard some of those complaints before here in the States as well. And yet, I can point to hundreds, no thousands of women I am acquainted with who do have cleaning help, and that help is both welcomed and works out well. Why?

The head of any business sets the tone for that business. He/she also decides on the business practices and schedules. He/she is the employer. When looking to hire a new employee he/she does a background check on any people applying for employment. Problems that person has had with other employers will come to light. Find out who you are hiring before you hire them.

When an employee is hired, an employer sets out the terms of that employment. He/she tells the possible new employee precisely what that employee's duties will be. To do that the employer needs to know exactly what it is that the employee is being hired to do. The employer will provide for the new employee all equipment and supplies necessary to do the job. Can an employee make a suggestion about such equipment and supplies? Suggest yes, demand no. And if the employer does not choose to use the employee's suggestions a simple "No, I prefer_______" should settle the matter.

When an employee has been hired to do job X it is the employer's responsibility to make sure that doing job X is possible. If using a desk and the computer on it are necessary for the employee to do the job then the employer has to make sure that the employee's cubicle is not piled ceiling high with boxes and books such that the employee cannot get to the desk.

Employers regularly do training sessions with their employees, particularly the new ones. Every employer's expectations may be different, even though the job is technically the same, and employers need to set out precisely what they want done, how they want it done, and when they want it done.

Now, cleaning employees specifically. First, they are part time employees. It should not be expected that in one day or part of a day they can render a house completely spotless, neat and also germ free. That is a full-time, ongoing job that needs to be done every day. Cleaning help provides the skeleton of that house cleaning, but those living in a house the rest of the week have to do their share. You cannot, on a Thursday, complain about the cleaning job your help did on Monday if you have done nothing to maintain what was done.

Decide if it is "real" cleaning you want done, or a combination of cleaning and straightening up. If the former, then don't expect a "neat" look when that is not what your employee was hired to provide. If it is straightening up that is required, then don't expect a hygienically scrubbed bathroom. If both are required you may need to adjust the number of hours that your employee is hired for or the number of days a week. Employers should keep in mind that cleaning help are not miracle workers.

Business employers know that a friendly work environment makes for more productivity. They also know that too much socialization in the work place leads to lowered productivity. So employers need to be "nice" without becoming best friends. It is up to the employer to set the friendliness tone.

My present cleaning help has been with me for 2-1/2 years. I hired her after my previous help retired after working for me for over 12 years. What makes things work for me is what makes things work in all business environments. My help knows the job she was hired for, she got training in how I like things done, she has all equipment and supplies she needs to do the job, I don't present her with a disaster to clean each week, I greet her with a smile and ask after her kids, but I don't spend hours gossiping with her. She knows that if I am asking for an extra job outside of her regular duties I will pay for that. When it comes to the winter holidays she gets a gift from me, just as employees on the outside might get. And yes, I buy a gift for each of her kids as well. In the summer I give her a week off and pay her for it--employers give employees paid vacations. And yes, I am not always in the house when my help is there. She does her job anyway.

Far too often cleaning help is treated like a second class employee. You get what you pay for, in money and in attitude.

My mother has told this story many times, and it applies to women and their cleaning help. In Europe, when a chicken was roasted in a pan, the juice left in the pan was considered a special meichel, full of onion and garlic and chicken bits. When the first pan of fresh bilkelach(rolls) would come out of the oven, people would take the bilkelah and dip it into the chicken juice. Ah mechiyah! Therefore a woman's family was shocked when she took the woman who helped her with the laundry and cleaning and sat her at a table with a full plate of juice and multiple bilkelach. The woman ignored her family and patted the woman on the shoulder. "Es,es mein kindt. Ich darf dich far mir!"


Orthonomics said...

Perhaps it is just the accountant in me, but I believe your cleaning lady is not your employee but your contractor. . . . unless you are setting her hours and controlling enough of the work you need to make her a household employee and file taxes likewise.

Besides that, I have little to contribute. I've been working on relationships with my cleaning crew. This week we had a breakthrough when I found the living room had been cleaned after suggesting the job be done the night before.

Anonymous said...

Does it really matter if you call that help an employee or a contractor? The rules should be the same. Tell the person doing the work exactly what you want done and how and make sure you know if the work can be done the way you want it done with the time you have alloted for the job. I share my cleaning help with my sister and with two close friends. It's almost 19 years. And like you we pay vacation and holiday gifts and when her daughter got married we bought a gift and when her son graduated college we bought a gift. It's called being mentchlach.

mother in israel said...

I would like to have seen you try to tell Rachel what to do LOL. But I agree with you about the expectations and the training.

Anonymous said...

My DIL has different cleaning help almost every week. In her neighborhood there is a location where the women who want work wait and people go and get help that way. She is very unhappy with her help and always complains that they don't do things the way she wants them done. What can she expect the first time someone comes to work for her? It takes a little time for someone to find out how you like things done. If you really need the help then you may have to pay a little more and take the time to train someone. It really isn't seen one house seen them all.

Anonymous said...

I include my cleaning help in my tefilos for people I want to stay healthy. In my last pregnancy I was on forced bed rest for the last two months. I was not allowed to get up period. My husband had to take a leave from bais medrash--something his rebbeim were not in favor of by the way--and stay home and take care of the kids and me and the house. If I hadn't already had the cleaning help because I worked outside the house we would have been in really deep trouble. My company's plan covered me as well as disability insurance but money was not the only thing needed. The cleaning lady knew what to do and she did it. She gave us extra hours--hours that our working moms paid for because they couldn't fly in and take over the house. Yes our neighbors were wonderful but they weren't going to come and scrub my toilets and do my laundry and vacuum and all the things that kept the house together. And when I needed some personal hygiene help that cleaning lady helped me too. My mil always says that God puts the refuah in place before he sends the k'lulah. He sure did that when I had my cleaning lady in place before I got sick.

Orthonomics said...

Ahuva-Please don't take this the wrong way. . . but how in the world could your husband's Rabbonim not be escorting him out the door to help you?

There is a famous story that features a kollel husband and a Rosh Yeshiva (which RY varies depends on who is telling the story, I've heard the story both starring Rav Gifter zt"l and Rav Hutner zt"l I believe). The husband complains that his wife wants him to help a little sweeping the floor/taking out the garbage and that such is below his stature and the kavod due to him as a talmid chacham. On Friday afternoon, the husband is puzzled when the RY shows up in work clothes and proceeds to sweep the floor/take out the garbage.

Anyways, I hope I'm not being insulting. But, I just would expect something different and I definitely stand in admiration of the many fine local kollel husbands that I've witnessed pitch in voluntarily when there was no emergency. I'm sure that is a credit to the local Rabbononim who also seem to pitch in quite a bit themselves (or at least that is how it appears since I seem to run into them at the grocery store quite often).

Anonymous said...

SephardiLady, there is a big difference between the kind of helping out that a lot of kollel husbands do, mine included, and quitting being in bais medrash at all for at least 2 maybe up to 4 months. Unless we could find a woman to come in on Shabbos my husband couldn't even make it to shul. I'll be really frank. There were some teenage girls who came and played with the kids and did homework with them sometimes but I was not going to let them give me a bedpan and then empty it, nor clean me up. When I say I wasn't allowed off the bed I mean for any reason. One of his rebbi's helpful suggestions was that if I was that ill perhaps I needed to be in a hospital or nursing home. Another one of them actually had the nerve to call up my parents and tell my mother that her daughter was more important then her job and she should quit and come out to stay with me.

Not so strangely my husband changed yeshivas after I had the baby.

Orthonomics said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Orthonomics said...

Your husband definitely had the good sense to quite. I am just shocked by the behavior of the Rabbonim. Employers of ours past and present have leave donation programs so that families experiencing major health issues can deal with them. I realize the hardship of a husband having to step in more than fulltime when his wife is in need and I realize that help becomes very necessary. But at least in my book, this is part of the contractual deal of marriage. To suggest a nursing home and to suggest that someone else quite a paying job so a husband can stay in Beis Medrash without concern is the height of chuptzah.

A friend of mine likes to say that she worries far more about the inside influences than the outside influences when it comes to her children. This is unfortunately yet another example of that.

On a hopefully happier note, I hope you had a speedy recovery and won't have to go through such an ordeal like this in the near future.

Orthonomics said...

Excuse my typos. I'm moving too fast this morning.

Anonymous said...

Not saying Ahuva that your husband's rebbi was right because I don't know the specifics of your situation, but when something similar happened to us one of the rebbis suggested a skilled nursing facility because he was worried I wouldn't know enough to be able to take care of her. It was her he was worried about. Turned out he was right. My wife spent a month in the facility and the yeshiva outdid itself in helping me take care of the two kids at home. It could just be that the rebbis were very worried about both of you and came up with solutions they saw as being good ones, even if you didn't.

Orthonomics said...

I hope Chaim is correct in his assumptions and I am dead wrong. But, calling up a mother and telling her "your daughter, your responsibility" does not seem to indicate that. I'd say that the primary responsibility one you are married is spouse to spouse, although it is wonderful when mothers do come to help out, as my mother has done for me in a pinch. (But she isn't formally employed either).