Years ago, a friend of mine was trying to justify hiring a housecleaning service. Anna struggled because she thought she “should” do the work herself. After all, her home was small and many of her friends had no problem keeping their places in order. She broke down her salary into an hourly rate and found that it was indeed more cost-effective to outsource this – Anna earned more per hour than the cleaning service would charge her.
There’s nothing wrong with Anna’s approach – it makes perfect sense to be mindful of spending money. But I think it’s time we changed the conversation about outsourcing household management tasks. It’s not about justifying an expense, but rather making an investment in our families and our careers.
Investing in a resource that can take on tasks you don’t have time – or don’t want – to do means you free yourself up for what’s more valuable to you. And perhaps more important than the hours you get back in your day? The ability to concentrate more fully on your family, career, or whatever else you choose, without household chores chipping away that focus.
The difficulties of 2020 have clarified our priorities, and in many cases, driven us to focus on people and emotional health more than ever. Managers and executives are leading teams through challenging circumstances; in many cases, they’re trying to help employees personally cope with stress resulting from the pandemic. Working parents have an added layer of pressure as they manage remote learning for younger children; college-age kids may also be studying at home instead of on campus, making for a full house. All of us are trying to be resources to our colleagues, friends, and families to help them manage uncertainty. But time is not easy to come by, and there are truly not enough hours in the day to accomplish all we want and need to do.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women in the U.S. spend more than 2 hours a day on household management activities, or more than 15 hours a week. This adds up to a staggering 780 hours a year. The latest figures available are from 2019; my guess is they’re even higher in 2020. We’re spending more time at home and may have more family members living under one roof, which means extra time spent preparing meals and cleaning up, grocery shopping, and laundry, among other activities.
While it’s not possible to outsource all of this activity, think about what might be possible if you delegated a few things. For instance, time spent doing laundry, folding, and putting away clothes could instead be spent helping your kids with schoolwork or going for a walk or bike ride together. Having an assistant take on grocery shopping and meal prep means the final hours of your workday can be focused on finishing a project or talking with colleagues without keeping one eye on the clock since dinner is already underway. Trimming down your list of home to-dos means less work, less time spent thinking about chores, and perhaps fewer disagreements at home about whose turn it is to make dinner or tidy up the living room.
One of my clients has her personal assistant come every Friday. The assistant grocery shops, does the laundry, puts fresh linens on all the beds, and prepares a slow cooker meal to be ready at dinner time. The family starts off the weekend by sitting down to eat together, followed by a movie. I can’t think of a better or more relaxing way to end the workweek and start the weekend.
As we approach the final months of the year, think about what your time is worth. How much value can you get back in your day by delegating what’s not important so you can focus your time on what is? Let us know in the comments.