Shifting Codes of Conduct

The job of a tradesman and home service provider (HSP) is one that requires a somewhat elevated level of trust; where a client can be comfortable with an unfamiliar person working in their home, around their pets and families, in their most private sanctuaries. To that end I have developed a personal code of conduct, one that I exhibit but haven’t really articulated before. The short version is “Primum Non Nocere”, the long version goes something like this:

  1. Show Up Clean. That’s kind of a sliding scale, since I’ll be wearing work clothes and getting dirty. However it’s important to be washed, shaved, brushed and tucked.
  2. Wear Slippers. Especially on a first visit, I’m always prepared to kick off my shoes. Unlike in my childhood, shoe-free homes have become commonplace.
  3. Greet Everyone. It’s important to know who is in the house, and that they know who I am and what I’ll be doing there. This includes pets, children and visitors. I’ll take a moment to genuinely meet them, and become aware of their nature and needs.
  4. Don’t Pry. All of my work is a private contract agreement. Personal information outside the scope of my work is ignored and forgotten.
  5. Watch the Door. Some dogs and all cats love to sneak out out when a HSP is working. Occasionally one sneaks in. There’s also drafts, insects, dust, and noise to consider. I do my best to minimize such things.
  6. Primum Non Nocere. “First, do no harm”. I look for breakables around the work area, and take necessary precautions. Dropcloths, dustshields, etc. are considered and deployed before any work begins.
  7. Communicate Clearly.Timelines, milestones, budget changes, plan changes, etc. should all be communicated succinctly and frequently.
  8. Leave Clean. The work area should be clean and tidy at the end of every workday, regardless of whether it will be in use by residents. Trash and debris is hauled, floors swept, pictures back on the wall. This is especially true at week’s end.

While staying healthy and protecting the health of one’s clients is always a priority, the advent of corona virus pandemic makes clear the need for an expanded list.

  1. Show Up Healthy. I don’t work when I’m sick, and my clients usually warn me off if they’re not well. However at this time it’s something to be particularly open and aware of.
  2. Wash Your Hands On Arrival. I’m finding some people would like to see it happen, rather than just know my hands were clean when I set out to meet them.
  3. Don’t Offer to Shake Hands. While many of my agreements are done on a handshake, that’s become figurative for the foreseeable future.
  4. Avoid Touching Items in a Client’s House Unnecessarily. This sort of falls under “Don’t Pry”.
  5. Maintain a Respectful Distance. Conduct discussions beyond arm’s reach.
  6. Primum Non Nocere. Assess the work environment and takes steps to protect against infectious diseases prior to beginning work.
  7. Communicate Clearly. Let the clients know what you’re doing to protect their health and that it is a priority.
  8. Leave Clean. Disinfect contacted surfaces that might transmit infectious diseases.

So that’s what I’ve got. If you have further suggestions or comments either as a home service provider or as someone who has employed one please share below.

+Toby Fernsler (,


1 thought on “Shifting Codes of Conduct

  1. Mike Hunt

    I really liked the philosophy that you have articulated here, as someone who regularly installs sex-playgrounds into peoples homes (for example Chinese sex-swing conversions), I have found that matters of trust and crossing boundaries is somewhat a thorny issue, especially in homes where one of the spouses elderly parents still live. I have found your advice invaluable and am now implementing it regularly in my professional practice. I also think that Latin phrases should be italicised.



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