Many households, including mine, are reliant on domestic helpers for chores, cooking, minding the children. With the recent regulations on helpers to stay home on rest days, they might be experiencing a sense of disconnect like the rest of us, since their only time to socialise face to face are now “home days”. So how can we help keep FDWs at home engaged and mentally well?
Many of them have loved ones in their hometown, who might be facing much bigger threats such as complete lockdown, loss of income, poor healthcare. This might be unsettling during the COVID-19 crisis which can yield much more negative emotions and anxieties. Here are some tips on keeping domestic helpers engaged and mentally well at home.
Tips For Keeping FDWs At Home Engaged and Mentally Well
1. Assure Helpers by Keeping them Well-Informed
Helpers should be kept abreast of latest measures by the government to contain the outbreak. Apart from MOM advisories in various languages – Bahasa Indonesia, Burmese, Tagalog and Tamil, employers can communicate the importance of personal hygiene, cleanliness and the reasons behind staying safe at home. There are plenty of resources from MOM in various languages as well as well as A Good Space for both employers and their FDWs.
Also you may want to assure her that treatments for COVID-19 are free as she is a long-term resident in Singapore. This also reduces anxieties about managing medical costs as they can be a cause of worry. In addition, particularly for the FDWs who have their home leave due, they could feel sad as they are unable to head home. Assure them that Singapore is a safer place to be for now, and that arrangements to fly home can be made once the situation gets better and travel restrictions are lifted in both countries.
2. Perspectives of Safety at Home
We also need to stress the importance of being safe at home and not being stuck at home. This mentality especially for FDWs is critical. This also means no physical interaction with other helpers from other households for the time being. Staying home means a much lower risk of contracting COVID-19.
3. Equipping FDWs with Necessities
FDWs should be given masks and sanitisers, and these necessities should be used when heading out of the home for grocery runs, walks with the children or grandparents. Basic amenities should also be well-stocked, since we should ideally be lowering the chances of going out during the circuit breaker. Ensure that supermarket runs or online supermarket orders can include what the helper needs for the duration of one to two months.
4. Mandate Handwashing, Frequent Wiping of Common surfaces and Regular Cleaning
As with all other members of the family, handwashing should be frequent especially when preparing meals, eating or after play. With everyone at home, it could mean a higher frequency in cleaning floors, bathrooms and the kitchen. Aside from the helper being responsible for chores, do engage the children in helping out at home as well. This takes the load off a single individual and keeps everyone responsible for the household. Many hands make light work!
5. Staying Connected Virtually
Most FDWs would be quite adept at staying connected with their families virtually. This is critical as it provides them connections to loved ones. Support them by allowing WIFI access to the family network, supply paper if they wish to write letters and encourage communication. After all, we have our families close to us but they are unable to experience such intimacy in a foreign land.
6. Mandate Rest Time and Rest Days
While the home seems busier with more meals to cook and chores to complete, domestic helpers should be given adequate breaks and rest time. Rest days should also strictly be for rest and not more chores at home. This leads to a healthier and happy mental well-being. After all, we wouldn’t want to be working every day!
7. Staying Occupied with Helpful Resources
Besides communicating with friends and family, domestic helpers can use their rest days to learn a hobby with a free online course or enjoy some audiobooks from Audible. Encourage them to pick up a new skill, read, watch a show in their native language so it keeps their mind occupied rather than get paranoid about the rise in Covid-19 cases. It is also a great way to unwind listening to music, watching concerts or just reading a book.
8. Keeping fit and Exercising
Being on the move also helps ward off the blues by encouraging endorphin release. Encourage your helper to try simple exercises or a quick walk around the neighbourhood. Be sure to remind her not to interact with others from different households.
9. Ask Your FDW about her feelings, family and well-being
Don’t forget to care for your FDW aside from ensuring her physical needs are met. A simple “are you ok?”, “how are you feeling?”, “are your family members ok?” and other words of concern are always welcome. She might communicate her feelings or family troubles, we can always be a listening ear as we are the only people to be there for her during difficult times. Constantly check in so that she stays mentally well during this period.
Care for Your FDW As Part of the Family
It isn’t easy travelling to a different country all alone, leaving family behind in search of a better life. With restricted movement in place, it could be even harder for FDWs to connect with familiar faces. We ought to show our appreciation for our helpers by assuring them that we are in this together. They are after all, a part of your family, caring for the children and other members while keeping the home together free from COVID-19.