Timing is everything

Outsourcing: Not Just for Businesses Anymore

Ever find that sometimes there are not enough hours in the day to get all the things done around the house that you want to or that may need to be done? Even with a reasonable "division of labour" among persons living under the same roof, not all of the chores get done. If this sounds familiar, why not consider "outsourcing" some of the household tasks and chores?

The concept of outsourcing has caught on in the business world because companies have realized it is a way of getting particular tasks done at particular times without adding permanent employees, or as a way of gaining particular expertise when needed, or sometimes to simply get things done in a hurry. For many of the same reasons, outsourcing makes sense for households too.

What Might Be Outsourced

There are a number of household chores that people have traditionally hired others to do, for example: house cleaning, gardening, snow removal, even walking the dog. But there are a number of other household tasks you can hire someone to do, freeing your time for other things. For example, why not hire someone to run various errands for you one morning a week, such as taking clothes to the dry cleaner, buying your groceries, going to the post office, taking your car in for an oil change, picking up household supplies (like kitty litter), etc.

Some companies that have realized their employees may not have time for personal errands offer a concierge-type service from their office for employees. The errands that are covered by such services vary, but they can include things like picking up/dropping off dry cleaning, taking shoes to be repaired, making restaurant reservations, picking up tickets to sporting events, theatre or concerts, etc. Find out whether your company offers such a service and if they do not, consider asking for such services as a benefit.

If you do not have time to participate in a traditional car pool (where the driving duties are shared among a number of families), consider hiring someone to take your place in the car pool or consider hiring someone to pick-up and drop off your children after school to various lessons and activities. Of course, with such services you will want to take extra care to satisfy yourself that the driver is capable and trustworthy, and that the vehicle is suitable (for example, it has appropriate car seats, buckles and other safety features). Such a service may also be useful if you have elderly family members who need to be taken to different appointments, such as doctors, therapists, senior citizen outings, etc.

Another service that might make sense for your household is hiring someone to help you get organized. There are consultants who will come to your home, observe how things are done, and then make recommendations on ways of streamlining ordinary tasks or organizing things to make chores easier and less time-consuming. Such an expense may seem like an extravagance, but in the long run, it may save you time and headaches.

Finding Service Providers

Much like finding a babysitter or new doctor, word of mouth is often the best way of finding out what services are available in your area and of finding people who provide such services. It goes without saying that before hiring anyone to perform personal services for you, you should, meet with them to get a sense of whether you believe they are qualified and trustworthy. But don't simply rely on your gut feelings - check references, see if they are registered with the Better Business Bureau, find out if they are bonded, or if they carry an special certification (e.g., if they look after any family members, do they know CPR?), etc. And, if someone runs errands for you involving the payment of bills or the purchasing of goods, give them only sufficient money to carry out the transaction and ask that they get you a receipt for goods purchased, etc.

Remember, the rationale for outsourcing is to make your life easier and to give you more time to spend doing things you like to do, not just things that need to get done. You may also find that an added benefit is more harmony in the household, as there is less opportunity to nag household members for chores that might otherwise go undone.