Maura Looney is a Project Coordinator at HMEA, an organization that works to meet the needs of children and young adults on the Autism spectrum or with developmental and/or behavioral challenges. Below, Maura provides insight and advice for students whose internships and jobs may involve working in people’s homes instead of just in an office.
When you graduate college, most of your peers will get up every morning, get in their car and drive to their designated office building. When you drive to work, you won’t be pulling up to the same office building and set up at your cubicle for the day. Where you will be going is to someone’s home. Working with clients who need in-home services has many positive aspects to it, but it can also create some questions about what it is like when your work space is a client’s home.
When someone’s house becomes your work space, many in-home service providers question boundaries, such as what is appropriate behavior, what to talk about, taking food and drink, and much more. What is important to know is that the home you are in is your work place. You should always have that in the back of your head. Even if you are there every day and you’re creating a great relationship with the family, the relationship should always be a working one, and you should never forget that you are an in home service provider. If you learn to keep the relationship professional, you should be just fine working in someone’s home!
One of the most common difficulties employees have is how to work when someone is standing over their shoulder. You can’t hide in your cubicle, or pretend to check your email on your computer. When you have a parent over your shoulder making sure you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, it can be very nerve wracking. After all, you are working with their child! They are the reason you are there. Because it is their child who may not be able to communicate their needs, they are going to want to make sure this stranger in their house is doing the right thing. You can’t blame them for that! Do your best to focus on the client, let the parent watch but try to pretend they aren’t there. Remember, you are there for the child and if the parent has questions, you can answer them to the best of your ability and seek out your supervisor who has the professional education and background to answer those questions.
Another thing to remember when visiting a home is to make sure you are in constant contact with your supervisor. Because you are not in an office every day, your communication with them is mostly via phone, email, or on site at the client’s home. All of our supervisors at HMEA are Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs). That means they have the proper education, background, and licenses to be a BCBA and supervise clients and employees. Be sure to keep in contact with them, even if you don’t see them every session, they are there to help! You are not bothering them when you call them to say you had a difficult session, or the family was asking you questions about a child’s treatment plan. Your supervisor knows best, and that is why they are there: to help you and guide you to doing the right thing. Having an issue with your schedule? Talk to your supervisor. Feeling like you’re stuck on a program? Talk to your supervisor. Anytime you have a question, it is important to start with them and they can take it from there.
When working in a home, you have to remember, people do live there. Yes, there will be parents who make sure the house is spotless and every dish in the sink is put away. But there will be days, just like your own home, where everything is everywhere and you just have to go about your session like you would any other day. There will be parents who ask you a million questions about yourself and your experience with providing services and so on, but what you need to remember is keep it professional. You are at work, even if it is in a house. You never know what sort of challenges being a home service provider will throw at you, but that is what keeps it interesting and exciting!