Firstly, the employee should be made to understand that during the eight hours of work agreed upon, she must be engaged in actual work for her employer.
Secondly, when an employee is off duty, she should not be allowed to remain with or to talk to the other employee or employees who are still on duty. When her work is finished, she ought to leave her employer’s house. The non-observance of either of these two points produces a demoralizing effect.
Thirdly, a general knowledge of cooking, and serving meals, of cleaning and taking proper care of the rooms of a house, of attending correctly to the telephone and the door bell, of sewing, of washing and ironing, and of taking care of children, should be insisted upon from all household employees.
There are many housewives who will state that this last condition is impossible, that it is asking too much from one employee; and since it is hard to-day to find a good cook, it will be still harder to find one who understands other household work as well. But those who jump to these conclusions have never tried the experiment. It is not only possible but practicable.
Judging from the ordinary intelligence displayed by the average cook and housemaid in the majority of private homes to-day, it ought not to seem incredible that the duties of both could be easily mastered by young women of ordinary ability. A woman who knows how to prepare and cook a meal, may easily learn the correct way of serving it, and the possession of this knowledge ought not to prevent her from being capable of sweeping a room, or making a bed, or taking care of children.
It is above all in families where only a few employees are kept, that the housewife will quickly realize how much it is to her immediate advantage to employ women who know how to do all kinds of housework, instead of having those who make a specialty of one particular branch.
The specialization of work in private houses has been carried to such an extreme that it has become one of the greatest drawbacks to successful housekeeping in small families. Under this system of specialization, a household employee is not capable in emergency of taking up satisfactorily the work of another. Even if she be able to do it, she often professes ignorance for fear it may prolong her own hours of labor, or because, as she sometimes frankly admits, she does not consider it “her place.” The chambermaid does not know how to cook, the cook does not know how to do the chamberwork, the waitress, in her turn, can do neither cooking nor chamberwork, and the annoyance to the whole family caused by the temporary absence of one of its regular employees is enough to spoil for the time being all the traditional comforts of home.
In hotels and public institutions, and in large private establishments, where the work demands a numerous staff of employees, the specialization of the work is the only means for its successful accomplishment, but in the average home requiring from one to four or five employees no system could be worse from an economic point of view, nor less conducive to the comfort of the family.