Don’t we all wish we could just snap our fingers like Mary Poppins or wiggle our nose like Samantha in Bewitched and our homes would magically self-clean, self-polish, and self-disinfect? Unfortunately, this fairy-tale scenario can dissipate with the realization that “Prince Charming” doesn’t exist in real life and neither does an instantly efficient household.
But take heart—“efficient staff” need not remain an oxymoron. Here are some steps that let your house help man the fort when you are busy at the office.
Step 1: Have the correct attitude.
Even the seven dwarves lived by the whistle-while-you-work mantra. Love your home and all the work that goes into it. If you lead by example, your staff will surely follow. Many times, the focus of an inefficient household is not results but rather a litany of finger-pointing and regret. This is by no means the foundation of a stress-free home.
Performing household chores is not an innate gift but rather the result of external training. One cannot expect staffers with no training to perform their duties with the infallibility of Aladdin’s genie. Everything is a give-and-take situation. Once again, as Queen of the House, lead by example.
• Treat your staff like family (the Filipino value of “malasakit”).
• Teach them to have pride in their profession.
• Instill in them the desire to learn new things and the humility to accept change.
• Teach them to be self-motivated (kusang loob) and praise them accordingly.
• Maintain open avenues of communication.
• Know the limitations of others and temper your expectations.
• Do not be afraid of change, which can sometimes be for the better.
• Have faith in each staffer’s potential and it will manifest itself.
• Be patient. Everyone makes mistakes, but it is all part of the learning process.
Step 2: Create a system that works.
The efficiency of any system depends on its use and relevance. Is it simple to follow? Is it flexible enough to adapt to change? Below is a four-pronged plan of action within a sample scenario for you to experiment on.
Sample Scenario: A play date at home for your three-year-old child
Plan of Action:
1. Organize. Clarity of thought breeds clarity of action. Think about and decide on the following specifics:
• Logistics & guest list: At this point, one must be clear on the number of playmates coming over, their ages and gender as well as their designated general play area and time of play. Also consider how many mothers or yayas will attend. Make sure to select an area that is large enough to accommodate everyone, is well lit, and is properly ventilated
• Food: One must also decide, depending on time allotted, what and how much to serve the guests. Generally, play dates are done in the late afternoon, so a light snack is usually offered. Pick food that is healthy, tasty, and easy to prepare. Safe utensils should always be used.
• Setting: Provide toys and activities that are age-appropriate for your playgroup. Classical music or nursery rhymes can be used to soothe children as well.
• Time management: Be aware that there are other activities going on simultaneous to this visit. Try to adjust other activities accordingly without completely disrupting everybody’s schedule.
• Emergency numbers/contacts: This is a very important reminder. Be sure to clearly list down all relevant contact numbers as well as the nearby medical and emergency facilities for all the members of your play date.
2. Verbalize and communicate. Leave simple and accurate instructions for your staff.
• Create a to-do list for your staff: For a working mother, a play date cannot run efficiently if staffers have no written reminders of all that needs to be done. Make sure that they have a list to aid them in this endeavor.
• Explain the list clearly: To ensure under-standing, discuss each item on your to-do list with your staff. Questions are highly encouraged to allow you to detect your staff’s train of thought.
• Assign and delegate: Divvy up the tasks such as
o Food assignments
o Clean-up duty
o Contingency plans: Every staffer should be aware of the Big Picture, the general overall plan for the activity. This way, they can work as a team to make the day as enjoyable as possible. No one will be left in the dark.
3. Implement. On the day itself:
• Remain calm. Remember that nervous energy is contagious—especially where children are concerned.
• Say a prayer. Any and all additional help would be great at this point—divine or otherwise!
• Let go and enjoy! Remember that this gathering is meant to provide an environment where children can relax, learn, and enjoy the company of their peers.
4. Debrief. This is one step of the process that is often undervalued. All success stories require an evaluation: a simple play date is no exception.
• Assess the success of the event per area. Every aspect of the day should be considered. Did the children like the food? Were their guardians relaxed enough to allow the children to play relatively independently? Was the time assigned optimal for everyone? Were there any accidents, slip-ups, or negative incidents? How did the staff cope?
• Dialogue with your staff. Ask them what they felt were their triumphs and why. Ask them about the areas where they felt they could improve and how. What were their observations about the group?
• Document for future reference. It is important that the same mistakes are not made twice and that the staff makes efforts to rectify any negative situation. Once again, seeing an assessment on paper makes all the difference on the path to efficiency.
• Praise often. You will find that a simple compliment can raise spirits and capabilities to levels you were not even aware of.
• Correct your staffers. You want them to learn not because you would like to embarrass or belittle them. Many times, half of what we say is how we say it.
Step 3: Be consistent.
The key to main-taining an efficient household is exactly that: maintenance. It is daily effort and daily faith. Here are some pointers to help you on your way.
• Implement and maintain the systems you created.
• Keep your avenues of communication open.
• Be open to change by always assessing your household staff and systems.
• Maximize praise for your staff’s achievements and minimize criticisms of their faults.
• Inspire your staff to do better through example.
Step 4: Self-Discovery
Once you actually put these guidelines into practice, you will discover many things about yourself and your staff.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to find out how you can be a better Reyna ng Tahanan:
• How would I describe myself as an employer?
• Can I actually do everything I ask my staff to do?
• Do I provide them the necessary tools and give them accurate instructions to fulfill their tasks?
• How do I punish, correct, or reward them?
Every household is the same—success is a concerted effort, with the sum being only as good as its parts. Households can run efficiently. It just takes effort. However, at some point, if done correctly, it will no longer seem like work. Therein lies the magic—and you don’t even need a wand.