Hiring professional domestic professionals for your home to manage your personal and household affairs can be a daunting task especially in the wake of a pandemic. From referrals and background checks to a personality fit within the household, finding good and qualified help is sometimes best left for the professionals such as Aleksandra Kardwell who runs the Hamptons Employment
Agency an award-winning domestic staffing firm that serves the Greater New York Area, New England, California, Florida, and beyond. With offices in New York City, Southampton, Boston, and Boca Raton HEA provides a full range of provide professional-quality domestic help, such as managers, housekeepers, domestic couples, chefs, chauffeurs, and other household staff members to meet the individual needs of our clients which include private family office members, as well as high profile CEOs, government officials, Hollywood actors, and more.
How has the pandemic affected your business this year?
2021 has been an extremely busy year for us. Competition for good domestic professionals continues to be intense, and salaries—particularly for workers in the Hamptons—have gone up substantially. For example, the going rate for regular housekeepers (not housekeeper/nannies or housekeeper/cooks) a year or so ago was in the $25-$35 per hour range. For summer 2021, many employers are paying their housekeepers $35 per hour, and some employers are even paying $40-$45 per hour.
Most professionals have been working remotely since the beginning of the pandemic. How is this situation playing out with regard to household staff?
Many domestic professionals, such as chefs, housemen, and housekeepers, need to be physically at their employers’ residences to complete their daily duties. During the height of the pandemic, before vaccinations were widely available, we saw employers requiring their staff to remain on the property, even during days off. Also, employers required workers to wear masks all of the time when working at the property. Even now, after their employees get vaccinated, some households are still requesting that staff wear masks.
In the case of managers and personal assistants, over the past several months, we’ve seen employers allowing their staff to do a combination of on-premise and remote work. So, many house managers and assistants have been working from home a good percentage of the time.
Recently, a growing number of large corporations announced vaccine mandates. Are you seeing this trend among household employers?
Absolutely. Virtually all the employers who contact us require that anyone who works for them be vaccinated. And, of course, this makes total sense. After all, domestic professionals work in their employers’ homes and, in the case of nannies and aides, with children and the sick or elderly.
I also would like to mention that, while we’ve seen a tiny percentage of domestic workers push back on vaccines, the vast majority realize they must have received their shots to be employable. In fact, we’re seeing that domestic workers want to be vaccinated for their own protection. Domestics often need to be in close contact with not only their employers and the employers’ family members, but also the employers’ family, friends, and associates.
As the country recovers from Covid, how do you see this affecting the market for domestic staff during the last few months of 2021?
I think the demand for domestic professionals will remain particularly strong for the foreseeable future. It looks like many employers will continue to work remotely at least some of the time, and this will translate to high demand for help at home—housekeepers, caretakers, nannies, and other domestics. Lots of people have decided to live in The Hamptons year-round or to live in the area more of the time. The demand for second homes in The Hamptons has been strong.
Locally, these factors translate into a greater need for domestic staff. Employers should be aware of the fact that good domestic professionals now often have many job opportunities available to them and that the going rate for workers is generally higher than it was before the pandemic.
Are you seeing household employer concerns around the delta variant?
Based on what we’re hearing, the vast majority of our clients and their family members have been vaccinated. So, most of the household employers we work with have that core protection. Also, as mentioned, employers are requiring that their staff be vaccinated. These two factors together create significant protection against serious illness for employers. Still, while most of our clients don’t seem particularly concerned about the delta variant, some clients with younger, unvaccinated children have expressed concern.
What advice would you give to domestic employers looking to secure staff this fall?
There are a couple of things that I would recommend to household employers. If you have good staff in place, you’re in a great position, and you want to stay there. Make sure you treat your employees extra well, keep them happy, and compensate them appropriately. As mentioned, demand for domestic professionals is very high right now. Good workers can easily transition to high-paying jobs—and sometimes positions that also have favorable work schedules.
If, on the other hand, you are looking to hire someone, be ready to act quickly when you find a strong candidate. Good workers are not staying on the market long these days, as many are receiving multiple job offers. You should also be ready to offer market-competitive compensation, which can sometimes be 10-25% higher than the 2019-2020 levels.