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THE PRIVATE SERVICE SECTOR & COVID-19

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Written by Nanette Hebdige May 2020

With the COVID pandemic having brought the world to its knees, no industry has gone unscathed. We’re learning to coexist differently and adapt to new environments, even after we fully reopen. Getting back to business after this economic breakdown will be a slow, gradual process and it’s debatable whether it will even “be business as usual” again. Understandably, new protocols have been embraced to become the new modus  operandi even after COVID.

Here are some measures and guidelines that if they haven’t been already implemented in private residences, should be taken into consideration.

WHAT’S THE IMPACT?

The private service industry has been affected by COVID, but it’s debatable whether the very wealthy will reign in their staffing needs. The UHNW will always retain staff to provide the lifestyle they’re accustomed to. For this reason, many in the workforce will want to infiltrate this sector, but it requires tenure, moxie and a honed skillset. These positions require wearing many hats, dealing with diversity and juggling countless responsibilities added to any original job description, making it very different from a corporate milieu.

LIVE-IN IS THE BEST OPTION

If the employer is able to provide live-in accommodations, it’s the most viable solution. Maybe even providing guest quarters, so staff can forgo their need to get to work. Although in some instances, this may not be attainable, as most employees have families to return to after work-hours.

MEETINGS & SERVICES

Mingling with vendors, trades and attending meetings will need to be curtailed and minimized, implementing special sanitized protocols. Personal trainers, masseuses, outside services/repairs and deliveries will have to adhere to new household guidelines. PA’s and EA’s would have the ability to work from home, however most positions requiring the management and upkeep of large estates can’t be performed virtually.

TRAVEL, SUMMER RESIDENCES & PREPAREDNESS

Summer homes may not be utilized this coming summer, but certain staff will need to be retained to maintain the residences. Private aircraft and yacht travel will still play a big part, although crew will be requested to provide above average sanitation, also to applying to themselves. PA and EAs will need to ensure that there aren’t any travel quarantine restrictions enforced between states, as well as in the international sector, prior to travel.

Additionally, with the 2020 hurricane season being predicted as extremely volatile, East Coast residences will have to prepare ahead of time to ensure emergency action plans are enacted as well as checking on home warranties policies and insurance coverages.

SECURITY!!!!

With our nation roiled with anger and unrest, beset by national uncertainties and unemployment at an an all time high, security should be a top priority and be ramped up to Defcon-5. EM’s should ensure properties are secure and that the correct systems that are in place (Cloud based systems are available to link all properties together for more efficient monitoring).

Many principals will be working from home and their safety, their families and homes is paramount. Additionally, with many curtailing travel and residences left unoccupied longer, there will multiple threats to contend with. Security systems should have regular maintenance to ensure they’re working at maximum efficiency – alarms, AV feeds, closed circuit – and onsite security will need to be more alert than ever.

Nannies caring for small children need also be aware in case of kidnappings.  Chauffeurs have to also be doubly vigilant of vehicles to ensure of their safety and the safety of its passengers. EM/HMs will have to provision for additional security to ensure that exotic cars and boats are also being secured against theft.

CROSS-STRAINING

Certain positions are cross trainable, but a good majority aren’t. A chauffeur can’t step into the shoes of a chef and vice versa, but a housekeeper can provide the service of a nanny if necessary and be given, as well as butlers and PAs certain admin responsibilities. Top positions such as chief of staff, EM and HM require a singular skillset derived from years of service and excellent mental quotient, where other staff won’t be qualified to handle.

TECHNOLOGY & DIVERSITY

EAs and PAs will need to be savvy in arranging virtual meetings for principals and staff will have to become familiar with various technology platforms for employee meetings with their managers.

Just like company cultures have adapted, so will be the workings in private households. The private service sector is a difficult one to compartmentalize under virtual or remote, as most of the work performed has to be conducted on premises. Gardeners, housekeepers, chauffeurs, chefs, butlers, nannies and security teams will need more than the usual guidance from the EM/HMs.

STAFF RELATIONS

Relationships will be strengthened, as not only the hygiene parameters are for the benefit of the principals but for the common wellness of everyone. Many who have been furloughed and return back to work, will do so with the understanding that there will be new policies and procedures in place. Since work is fundamentally social, working together with your coworkers will become even more enjoyable after the lockdown.

NEW COVID19 PROTOCOLS

Enact new work protocols with regards to sanitation and sterilization of the residences, as well as provisions for the principals and staff. That’s why live-in situations for some of the staff would be optimal, but as previously mentioned that may not be possible from the employer or the personal responsibilities of the staff. Additionally, the usual safeguards need to be implemented – masks, washing of hands regularly, taking temperatures when arriving at work, maintaining social distancing.

IS IT YOUR JOB?

One thing is for sure, the quintessential service industry motto of “no job is too big” will go along with the “roll up your sleeves ” mentality, as everyone will have to embrace a complete pitch-in scenario and egos. Cavalierly implying “that’s not my job” could get your replaced with someone with a less lofty attitude. No task will be beneath anyone and acting as chauffeur on occasion, running errands or doing personal assistant duties, when that’s not your duty isn’t something you’ll be able fluff off. Management positions encompass many tiers of responsibilities and leading by example will become even more significant now. Communicating expectations clearly and mentoring will be more necessary than ever, as staff will look up to management for guidance, new directives and support.

 

The way we operate has changed forever and there’s a new norm in place. It’ll be a slow process for the economy to regain its footing globally and with many seeking employment, all industries are flooded with candidates. It’s an employer’s market and candidates with the right qualifications and more tenure will be given more consideration for these private positions. Staffing agencies will be inundated with resumes and it’s important to remember that your exposure and mental quotient is what will get you noticed.

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