If you have come this far in the Staff Assistant series, I hope you have found some helpful ideas to steer you towards the perfect employee for your business. The last four topics are ones I have come across in my many years of having helpers. I hope to offer some guidance and ideas in how to manage these common concerns.
Dress Code: My preference is for employees to wear clothing that fits well and covers their bodies when they are doing the bending, lifting, stooping, and carrying required to care for little kids. I have a clothing rule called the “4 B’s“. I don’t want the employee to show me or the children their back, breasts, belly, or butt. I also don’t want to pay an employee to re-arrange their clothing hundreds of times a day when they are performing the normal duties. I discuss these rules when I interview because the employee needs to understand that the clothing they wear on the street may not be appropriate around little children.
I also require them to wear safe shoes that cover their feet without a heel. I prefer tennis shoes. I offer to purchase two full sets of clothing and shoes for the employee to keep here. They change when they arrive and depart. I take care of laundering their work clothes.
Cell phones: Managing employee cell phones is becoming an issue for every business owner. Home child care is not an exception. I have had numerous issues with helpers bringing their phones into work. It can be a struggle to get the employee to either not bring their phone or to use it wisely when they are on the clock.
If your helper drives for your business to run errands or do school runs you have to be very firm about them not using their phone while driving. If there is an accident, you could be liable whether it involves the children or not. There’s an element of trust that must be given and it is wise to have your employee sign an agreement that they will not use their phone at any time while driving for your business.
The cell phone in the playroom can lead to many distractions for the employee. If they are used to being connected to friends, family, and the internet all day it can be a source of distracted work performance and poor minute to minute decisions.
My helper and I take our kids out for a daily walk and often visit the “Fenced In Kids” at the center a couple of blocks from my house. We bring our puppies so the kids can participate in our “Pet The Brown Pup” fur share program. The center is a converted grocery store that I used to buy candy and ice cream from when I was a little kid. The glass front door of the store is now the entryway into a toddler classroom.
One beautiful Fall day we walked to go visit the kids at their fenced in playground and found that they weren’t outside but inside in the front toddler room. We decided to go wave at them to say hello.
The whole group of kids came running to the glass door and it was apparent why they were inside. They were all sick with colds. Every kid in the room had a very dirty face with caked on snot. The staff was clearly not managing their runny noses.
When we looked inside the room we saw two staff members sitting on top of the kid sized tables “criss-cross applesauce” while texting and playing on their phones. Every one of those kids needed a good face and hand clean up and they hadn’t even noticed. It was apparent by looking at the kids that these messy faces had hours to dry. It was ridiculous.
Now obviously the staff wasn’t doing their job but what really stood out to me is that they had the time to play on their cell phones for the five minutes we visited the children and showed them our puppies through the window, but they didn’t have the attention or time to tend to even the basic needs of the kids at the moment.
As sad as it is to say… the cell phones can be so distracting that the job you hire your helper to do can’t be done if they have access to it.
The other issue with cell phones is that they are recording devices and picture takers. Many now have full internet access. There have been a number of cases in the U.S. where employees are using their cell phones to video record their workplace. The centers I work for have had a number of issues where the children have been photographed and put up on social networks without the consent of the center or the parents. Just keep in mind that should you have conflict, something unique is happening with the health or behavior of the kids, or if you have a discontent employee… the camera and video recorder can be used in your setting to document it without your knowledge.
The way I manage the phone with my helper is to not allow it for the first two years of employment. Once they reach their two year anniversary I offer them their dollar an hour raise and the privilege of using their phone during working hours. By that time, I know I can trust they will use it with discretion and not allow it to be a distraction to their work. It’s a great free bonus to give to the one who has earned it.
Little pests that can cost you a bundle:
It’s a good idea to discuss fleas, scabies, head lice, and bed bugs (eeek) with your employee during the interview process. If the employee brings in critters to your home it can cost many hundreds of dollars and a ton of work to rid yourself and your environment of the bugs. You can also loose families because of repeated exposure.
I talk to my employee and let them know that I’m willing to pay for flea control and head lice products if they or their home is exposed. I don’t want them to be embarrassed to tell me about any exposure because it is much cheaper for me to help them deal with it BEFORE they bring it into my house than after.
The physically fit employee: Part of the employee screening process is identifying the workers who are physically and mentally capable to do the job you are offering. It’s important to look closely at their physical and question them regarding any existing health conditions that could affect their ability to safely do the job. You may have to consider accommodations if the employee has restrictions and try to get a feel for any health issues that will affect performance and attendance.
In the past five years I have interviewed many potential employees for my staff assistant position and for her substitute. I also work with two centers in the hiring of their potential employees.
Our nations employers, government, and military are experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of obese workers. Our profession is being hit hard by it too. This is a good resource from the CDC that can show you the rise of obesity over the past two decades in your area:
Employees who are poor, have little education, and scarce access to healthy foods are at even greater risks for obesity. As difficult as it is to discuss, I believe we can’t leave it out in a conversation about hiring child care assistants.
Because the salaries available for assistants are traditionally low, it is common to hire helpers who have little education, limited resources, environments not conducive to physical activity, and an inability to purchase healthy food. These factors contribute to a higher rate of obesity in child care workers.
My experience in the last few years has been that nearly every potential employee responding to my advertisements has the health issue of obesity. Most of these applicants have been morbidly obese. In my consulting business, I am working with center directors and owners regarding this issue too. The centers I work with have about seven out of ten obese or morbidly obese applicants and employees.
Child care, done well, is a VERY physically demanding job. When interviewing staff you must have a realistic notion that the worker can safely and quickly manage the job. The State of Iowa requires a pre-employment physical that declares the worker is capable of doing child care. You must be aware that even though the employee has been cleared by a Doctor to do the work of child care, they may not be able to do your child care job. Often the decision that the employee CAN do the job is based primarily on the employee’s declaration of their own abilities.
Obese and morbidly obese employees may have concomitant health issues such as muscular-skeletal disease like osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, pregnancy complications, and heart disease. It’s important to assess the workers medical conditions associated with obesity. Obese workers have a higher rate of absenteeism and take more disability leave. They are also more prone to injury. The most common injuries are due to falls and lifting, that can affect the lower extremities, wrist, hands, and back.
One of the ways I address pre-existing health conditions, obesity, morbid obesity, and the associated health complications is to be very specific in my advertisements regarding the physical demands unique to our work. This gives the employee a clear picture of the physical expectations and allows a framework for evaluation and reference if the employee declares they are capable of meeting the demands pre-employment but is unable to do them once they have been hired.
Advertising Job Description With Specific Physical Demands:
The employee must have:
High energy and be able to sustain a high level of energy throughout the play times of the children and the household cleaning and duties.
Bend to perform various tasks numerous times throughout the day
Stoop and be comfortable sitting on the floor.
Kneel on floor and sustain position on knees for prolonged period of times.
Stand up to 80% of the day.
Lift and carry up to 50 pounds.
Able to climb stairs multiple times a day and carry up to 30 pounds while climbing.
Able to climb in and out of evacuation windows with children.
The agility to move from a kneeling floor position or seated position to a standing position promptly to respond to the ever changing care needs of multi level aged group children.
Assume postures in floor and low level positions that best allow close supervision of and proximity to the children.
Have the stamina to do these movements repeatedly during the day.
Perform all activities with children, i.e. climbing stairs, outdoor walking, and supervising free play for extended periods of time.
Must tolerate temperatures from 20 degrees Fahrenheit to 82 degrees Fahrenheit during regular prolonged outdoor activities.
Possess excellent hearing and visual capabilities in order to monitor the environment and children’s well being and take direction from owner.
Be capable of multi tasking the numerous responsibilities of the job and be able to respond quickly and appropriately to changing situations.
I hope these articles have given you some ideas to consider when hiring your helper. If you have additional questions or comments we would be happy to include them in the series. Let us know your experiences and successes in finding the perfect addition to your home child care business.