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Five Things to Look for When Hiring Household Helpers

By: Olivia Timbone

Not too long ago, I was unloading a van full of boxes when an older man in a white pickup truck drove by and waved. “Hello, neighbor!” he called out. I waved back, recognizing him from a recent neighborhood meeting. “Need help?” he asked, nodding towards the van. I said yes and a few minutes later, he came back, armed with his work boots and a dolly. Over the next 15 minutes, he helped me unload everything and bring it inside the house.

I have to admit: I was surprised at how easy it was for him to offer to help. Encounters like this seem so rare these days. It also made me realize the value of asking for help and the value of getting to know my neighbors. The experience reminded me of how much more pleasant and rewarding life could be if I realized that I didn’t have to do everything on my own…asking for help is perfectly okay.

That being said, sometimes we need to reach outside of our circles of friends and family and bring help through an outside company like Surv. But with the abundance of apps and companies out there to choose from, finding a good partner might feel overwhelming. At Surv, we’ve worked with thousands of Neighbors in our communities who need help around the house and we’re constantly thinking about what makes a good helper. Here are five things you should look for:

Local workers moving items

Helpers who are off their phone

Effective helpers should be attentive, focused and present. If you’re going to be paying someone to help you with household projects or yard work, you should choose someone who will give their full attention to the job at hand. Don’t be afraid to ask potential helpers to leave their phones in the car or in a designated area. Watching how they respond to this is an indicator of their mentality around their devices.

Helpers who are skilled but willing to take directions

Your home is a special place full of quirks and details that only you know as well as many special memories. You should choose a helper who is skilled yet who is willing to take directions and to learn from you the particularities about how to complete a certain task. Choose helpers who listen well, ask questions and follow directions.

Helpers who are certified and/or background-checked

If you choose to work with a company that provides helpers (like Surv), be sure to ask about their vetting process, including whether or not they perform background checks. Having someone helping you around the house requires an element of trust, so you should go with a company that can assure you of a thorough and thoughtful vetting process, whether that’s running formal background checks or some other system.

Surv Local Worker talking with Neighbor

Helpers who are friendly and conversational

The best part of receiving help is the opportunity to build a relationship with the person helping you. Look for service providers and helpers who understand the importance of relationship-building and who have a conversational and relational culture. For instance, if you know you’ll need help on a regular basis, you should ask if it’s possible to request the same helper or two regularly so you can get to know them, rather than having a new helper each time. 

Helpers who can handle a variety of projects

While it’s normal to find a painter, mover or weed-hacker, it’s rare to find an in-home service company that can handle many different kinds of jobs. Look for a company that understands the complexity of a home and whose employees are willing to jump in and assist with a variety of projects. Ask about the types of projects they’re capable of handling and what kind of training or certification they’re required to complete before being sent on a job. 

With an ever-increasing number of apps, robots and “smart” gadgets, it’s easy to think we can lead fully self-sufficient lives that “free” us from the need to ask for help, but is this really a better life? I’ll admit that I used to want to be the kind of person who could handle life’s challenges on her own, but now I’m realizing that might not be the best life policy. Learning to pause, reach out to another person and ask for help might be one of the best lessons I have learned yet.