You have just hired your new helper. Congratulations! Now it is time to prepare for your new helper so that things will go smoothly from the start.
1) Where will your helper sleep?
An important question. Why? If your helper feels comfortable in her own room that will translate in her work. Ideally, while you were interviewing your helper, you discussed where she is going to sleep so she knows what to expect. You may have to buy a bed and closet for her if there isn’t one available yet. You can find special helper beds on online forums or closed Facebook groups, you can go to Ikea or get one tailor made.
2) Decorate her room
Regardless, before she arrives you can make her room clean and inviting. Colorful bedding, nice curtains if she has a window and a rug can do wonders to any room. Have her room ready before she arrives so she doesn’t have to dust, clean and vacuum her own room as her first task. She is your employee and she should feel at home and valued if you want the relationship to start successfully.
3) Buy a safe
Don’t tempt anyone by leaving your valuables lying around. Every so often a domestic helper is accused of stealing her employer’s valuables and it is easy to point fingers when something goes missing. Falsely accusing anyone is serious and you can protect your helper and even relatives and friends by simply removing the temptation. All major departmental stores and some local shops in Hong Kong sell safes that can be bolted to the wall.
4) Get her a key
Not every employer feels comfortable giving her new helper a key. You don’t have to give her a key directly from the start, but eventually, you want to give her one. It is simply impossible to have the same schedules for 730 days. In case you want to wait a few days or weeks, tell her this so she understands that this is not a permanent situation. Resentment from the start is toxic to your relationship.
5) Come up with a mobile phone arrangement
Will you provide your helper with a work phone? Is she allowed to use your wifi? When can she use the phone? The clearer you are on your instructions from day one, the better. Write your phone rules so she has a copy. Of course rules can change or new ones can be added, but the clearer you are at the start, the better. This also means briefing all family members to form a consistent front. Do you not allow her to use the phone when she cares for the baby, tell your husband to not do it either. She will just be confused why the rules are different for her.
6) Get a smart card for public transport
Your domestic helper will probably be using public transport when going to the market, bringing the children to music school and so on. Do you ask her to write down exactly how much she spends every time she takes the metro or do you simply give her cash every week? In any case, providing her with a card if she is a first-timer is a good idea.
7) Prepare a handy sheet with useful information for her
Your helper may be new to your estate, neighbourhood or even to the city. Write down a handy A4 cheat-sheet with all relevant information. Include your key contact numbers, your doctor and dentist and emergency number. If anyone in your family needs medication, write down the number of pills and time they should be taken. Include any other information that is necessary for your situation like an address in local language for the taxi driver or the emergency number for pet services.
8) What should she call you?
Are you comfortable with being called Ma’am and Sir or do you insist on being called by your first name? This may also depend on the helper herself, she may be really uncomfortable initially with calling you by your first name or even nicknames if you feel appropriate by this. Find out what works for your family and also your helper. But remember, smooth communication is key.
9) What should you call her?
This again is a personal decision that you have to make. Decide your boundaries before she arrives. It is easier to establish what you both agree on than having to change it later (though it’s possible). Most importantly if you have children, think about what they should call the helper. Is it Ma’am or Miss X, auntie or her first name? Decide what you are comfortable with and what fits with your pedagogical vision.
10) Privacy, for both of you
Living together with your new helper 24/7 can be very intense. Try and think about how you will create spheres of privacy. Tell her if you prefer her not to touch certain things in the house like your underwear drawer or your accounting shelf. It is also important to give your helper some space for herself. She will feel respected and has space where she can come to herself.
Preparing for your helper to arrive may take more time than you anticipated.