Can't cook, won't clean: workers buy home services

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Washing and cooking are dead; long live the lifestyle manager. The response of the young urban professional to increasing office hours and a hectic lifestyle is to ditch the housework, according to a new study.

Washing and cooking are dead; long live the lifestyle manager. The response of the young urban professional to increasing office hours and a hectic lifestyle is to ditch the housework, according to a new study.

Money spent by affluent workers on cleaners, laundry services, delivered gourmet meals and a host of other personal services is set to rise sharply over the next five years, according to market analyst Datamonitor.

Large City firms are including the services of lifestyle managers on new contracts as a lure to potential employees instead of offering extra cash, according to researchers.

The lifestyle manager sorts out everyday tasks such as cleaning and travel arrangements to save time for workers putting in long hours at the office. While basic chores are most in demand, the so-called concierge services have also reported customers requesting a Cornish language teacher and a tantric sex tutor.

The trend, which has spread from the United States, comes as unions have targeted leading financial institutions, claiming many were forcing staff into working excessive hours.

Dominik Nosalik, analyst for Datamonitor, said: "It's very much targeted at the busy executive who has a lot of cash and not a lot of time."

However, the survey indicated the trend was not just about workers with no time, pointing to the anticipated rise of the "service junkie".

Researchers blamed a skills shortage in cooking and cleaning as well as fewer hours spent at home by high-earning dual income families.

The study of workers in seven European countries predicted that 16 per cent of households would employ cleaners by 2006, compared with 10 per cent in 2001.

Home laundry services, only used by a few people, are expected to increase sharply by 17 per cent a year, according to the study. It also found that while nearly three-quarters of Europeans had used a home meal delivery service at least once in 2001 that figure was expected to rise by five per cent a year until 2006.

Both men and women were said to use the services equally. One anticipated growth area is among groups of young workers sharing a home because of the problems of high property prices.

TenUK, a London-based company with members paying between £50 and £150 a month, has seen its business expand rapidly with 7,000 households now using its services. Chief executive Alex Cheatle said: "We do this to make people's lives easier by allowing them to delegate to us anything they don't have the energy, expertise or time to manage themselves."

He said about half of the requests were for domestic chores such as the hiring of tradesmen. "Once we were asked to hire a tarantula, which we did. The difficult things are quite easy to sort out," he said.

Rob Crouch, who has his own design company, said he has used the service for 18 months as an alternative to employing a personal assistant. Mr Crouch, 32, of Islington, north London, has also used it to buy a car and for building work at his home. "Employing a tradesman can be a worry. This takes away that slight concern even though I could probably have got the same builder out of the phone book," he said.

The analysis also highlighted the growth of gourmet food services. Y-Cook, based in London, specialises in home deliveries for small dinner parties and exhausted workers unwilling to cook when they return home. Managing director Charlie Hastie said: "The idea is not for foie gras and truffles but meals for people who work hard, don't have much time and have got bored of eating pizza."

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