What a difference a year makes. When this New York Times article was published in April 2020, experts were predicting that we would not see an effective Covid-19 vaccine for at least twelve to eighteen months – this, followed by a litany of disheartening statistics about the development of past vaccines. Thankfully, this has not been the case; in fact at the time of this writing approximately seventy million Americans have already been fully vaccinated. With millions more receiving shots each day, we are finally able to resume (or at least contemplate resuming) some normal activities. That said, we are not out of the woods yet. The world is still dramatically different than it was pre-covid, and we continue to be bombarded with conflicting information about how it is transmitted and who are most at risk for serious illness. For those with household staff, navigating the uncertainly is a bit more complicated due to the increased number of people whose compliance with preventative measures must be managed. For this very reason, early in the pandemic many people either furloughed their household staff or asked them to quarantine within the home.
Since that time role of the estate managers has evolved from organizing and maintaining the home to helping to protect the health of their colleagues and employers. Whether you are reassessing your current team or hiring a new one, it imperative that you consider their working knowledge of covid-19 and how it can be prevented.
Certainly the role of the estate managers has changed significantly. Always responsible with overseeing the rest of the staff, they must now also create covid protocols, for example taking the temperatures of any staff who come and go each day and/or come into contact with high-risk individuals.
Another issue is one’s vaccination status. Requiring your staff to get vaccinated is a personal choice – possibly a tough one if you have long-term or trusted employees who cannot or will not get the vaccine. The logistics of everyday life get even trickier if you have opted not to get vaccinated, as per current recommendations only fully vaccinated people should be around each other without masks. Whatever you decide, the estate manager should keep track of who is fully vaccinated and, as we are still not sure how long the vaccines last, the dates when they got their shots.
He or she must also be diligent about communicating with staff about taking the necessary preventative measures, both at work and in their personal lives. This can include anything from wiping down surfaces that may have been touched by guests or repair people to declining an invitation to an old friend’s party. Also, anyone who feels under the weather must immediately report it and get a covid test – even if they have been vaccinated. While relatively rare, there have been cases of vaccinated people testing positive for covid, so we cannot assume a sniffle or sore throat is due to a cold or allergies. Bottom line: there is still a lot of misinformation out there, so it is imperative that everyone is on the same page.
Finally, the ideal estate manager will be able to use technology to manage the risks. For example, there are management solutions that make it easier to send group announcements, assign tasks, monitor vaccinations, and if necessary, stagger schedules so there are fewer people in the house at the same time – all virtually. There is no doubt that we have been pushed to the limits of our endurance, and in many cases past them. However, it does appear we are on the road to recovery, with experts now predicting that life will be normal (in many respects) by the end of the year. The key is to remain vigilant a bit longer, and that means surrounding ourselves with estate management staff who are as committed to safety (theirs and ours) as we are.