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To Live In, Or To Live Out: Unlocking the Choices for Optimal and Simple Living Arrangements

In the realm of work experiences, few can rival the allure of “live in” arrangements. From working as an Au Pair in Paris to serving as houseparents for a sorority, these unique positions offer a combination of room, board, and sometimes even additional perks. Such opportunities can range from formal roles with stipends and responsibilities to informal arrangements where services are exchanged for free rent.

While the allure of reduced living expenses is undeniable, it’s important to consider the distribution of labor and potential challenges. In the case of being a houseparent, one individual may find themselves shouldering the majority of the workload while their partner focuses on personal pursuits. This discrepancy in labor distribution can be a factor worth pondering before committing to such an arrangement.

However, despite the challenges, many individuals have found “live in” experiences to be immensely rewarding. Whether it’s the chance to mentor and guide young women in a sorority or to offer services like house and pet sitting, these opportunities provide a unique blend of responsibility and the chance to enhance one’s skills and experiences.

In today’s landscape of soaring rental prices, where major cities like San Francisco, London, Paris, and New York City are known for exorbitant housing costs, the “live in” option is gaining traction as an enticing employee perk. It’s a way to alleviate the burdens of the rental rat race while fostering a valuable and symbiotic relationship between employers and employees.

As the worldwide rental market continues to fluctuate, offering “live in” opportunities remains a sound bet for those who possess marketable skills and are open to thinking creatively about their living arrangements. Whether it’s escaping the high rents of metropolitan areas or simply embracing a unique and fulfilling work-life balance, the appeal of “live in” arrangements is likely to endure.

From the Employer’s Perspective

When you are or are seeking a Nounou/Manny, Gestionnaire immobilier, Couple domestique, Chef privé, or Majordome, be aware that different staffing positions may call for different accommodation needs, and there are several combinations and factors for both parties to consider. Inviting strangers into your home necessitates giving the ‘live in or live out’ question considerable thought before answering:

  • Are you a highly private, shy and retiring sort, or do you enjoy being surrounded by people in a more social, convivial environment?
  • Are you staffing your primary residence or a vacation/auxiliary property?
  • Is the property’s location in a metropolitan centre or a remote, rural, isolated one?
  • Does the property currently have separate living quarters in the main building or grounds or will the property’s existing footprint need to be adapted to provide habitable accommodation?
  • Do you have young children or family members that need extra care or constant monitoring or are you a frequent traveller who is rarely at home but needs staff on an as-needed basis?
  • Are you including accommodation as a ‘perk’ to attract a larger pool of candidates or because it is customary for accommodation to be provided for this particular role?
  • Does the nature of the position’s duties require an on-site member of staff or not?

Whether frequent access or close proximity to staff, 24-hour care, or maintaining a discreet, invisible presence or merely a comfortable distance is your ideal, the decision of whether to hire live-in or live-out staff is one that merits the time to weigh the advantages or disadvantages of each option. Whichever option you choose, finding the right people to fit your needs can be a time-consuming quest which a staffing agency can help conduct and expedite. 

When looking at the live in option from a prospective employee’s vantage point, it might be a very attractive option for them to consider exchanging their services for a place to stay, as sky-rocketing housing prices and rents are making it difficult to recruit and retain talented staff, with younger people, in particular, being priced out.

From your point of view, it might make more sense on either a financial, logistical, or lifestyle sense to employ people who maintain their own residence or sleeping accommodation and keep a fixed, regular schedule for on-site working hours. If you can find people who are able to meet your staffing needs and can be available and on time for your particular schedule and location, then a live-out option may be the best choice.

In most cases, live in jobs are offering a lifestyle to people who are willing and able to consider jumping at the opportunity. Whether working in a lodge, on an estate or for an international school, the hours aren’t standard and can change from one day to the next. This is why a lot of employers offer the option of a live-in position.

Historical Context

Current London-area rents are making it difficult to recruit and keep hold of talented staff, with some of the very best candidates being priced out of the city market. The idea of housing workers in order to keep them in close proximity and attract a better pool of skilled labour and avoid transportation issues isn’t a new one though and was certainly a motivator in the era of the early twentieth-century industrialists who created towns to serve the lumber, steel and textile industries.

In the 1890s, in remote locations such as railroad construction sites, lumber camps, coal mines, and huge country estates, jobs often existed far from established towns. As a pragmatic solution, the employer sometimes developed a company town, where an individual company owned all the buildings and businesses. 

William Randolph Hearst’s famous castle, La Cuesta Encantada, (Enchanted Hill) was constructed a full five dusty, hot and rocky uphill 1920s-era miles from the central California coastal port town of San Simeon. In order to attract the finest craftsmen for the many decades of construction on the castle, (it was never really finished due to Hearst’s perfectionism) Hearst provided barracks on the grounds for the artisans and household staff were housed in a separate wing of the main building.

Victorian businessmen such as George Cadbury created “model villages” and estates for their employees that remain thriving communities today. Bournville, a model village in Birmingham established by George Cadbury during the 1890s, was originally created to house chocolate factory workers and then gradually transitioned to be a self-governed community.

In the nineteenth century, when organised labour first compelled factory owners to limit the workday to 10 and later 8 hours, a standard 40-hour workweek, management was surprised to discover that output actually increased and that expensive mistakes and accidents decreased.

An experiment that Harvard Business School’s Leslie Perlow and Jessica Porter repeated over a century later with knowledge workers proves that this statistic still holds true today.

“Managers want employees to put in long days, respond to their emails at all hours, and willingly donate their off-hours – nights, weekends, vacation – without complaining.”

From the Employee’s Perspective: Home Sweet Work, or Home Sweet Home?

Although the idea of not paying rent can be very appealing, the decision between whether to pursue a live in or live out position demands careful consideration, as this is not just a new job but can also be a new home and, in many cases, situated in a new town or city.  Living rent-free can be liberating or confining.

The first thing to consider for a live-in position is the living arrangement and quarters. Does it suit most, if not all of your needs and more importantly, is it right for you and can you imagine yourself being happy in the space and the employment situation? Would it be easier and maybe almost as convenient for you to maintain your own residence?

Some questions to ponder and then answer before accepting a live in position:

  • Is the rent included in your salaire, subsidised, or not included? Do the math ahead of time to make sure the financial remuneration is acceptable for your situation, and also consider tax implications that may occur if subsidised rent is not reflected in your before-tax salary. If rent isn’t included, who will be the payee on your rent check?
  • Will other staff be available to provide services for you, like a chef or housekeeper or will you have a kitchen for your own, private use? Is a company car provided? What kind of upkeep and maintenance are you expected to be responsible for?
  • Is the accommodation private enough to afford you a relatively autonomous lifestyle when not on duty?
  • Are you required as a condition of employment, to live on the premises every day of the week?
  • Will you have a spouse, partner or children living with you? If single, will you be allowed to have overnight guests without stepping on anyone’s toes?
  • Do you consider work a haven from your personal life or is it the other way around for you?
  • If you quit or lose your post, how will your living arrangement be affected? How many days’ notice are you required to give your employer/landlord? Make sure this question is answered well in advance of accepting an offer, as the stress of being homeless if only for a day is something you’ll need to be able to cope with.
    • Service occupier: It is essential for you to live in the accommodation to do your job, OR
      your employment contract stipulates that it’s necessary to live in the accommodation to do your job better.
    • Service tenant: You are able to live in accommodation provided by your employer, but don’t have to live there to do your job.

Wage: Weighing the Options

Last, but not least of your considerations, is to compare your wage and living package with the current wage standards of the UK.

The National Living Wage is being phased in between April 2016 and April 2020, with the aim of reaching 60% of median UK earnings by 2020. For over-25-year-old employees, the wage is projected to rise to at least £9 per hour by April 2020.

This often isn’t just an hourly rate that staff are paid, but is a wage that can be offset and/or impacted by whether or not staff accommodation is provided as part of the offer of employment. The rules on applying the accommodation are not new but are subject to changes which can incur extra costs and tax penalties if not managed properly.

Ultimately, the wage you earn compared to the demands and hours required of the job is the thing to be comfortable with. The goal is for you to be able to take the type of time off that best suits your personal needs. Do you prefer predictable time off, the name given to the designated periods of time that consultants are required to take off, or do you prefer a varied or fluid work schedule? Long hours may be just fine for you or you might function at your top performance level on a shorter workday.

Article by Kathleen Hershner

live in
To Live In, Or To Live Out: Unlocking the Choices for Optimal and Simple Living Arrangements 3

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