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Job sharing: how does it work?

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Job sharing might seem simple to define – two people sharing one role – but every pair of job-sharers you speak to will probably have a slightly different arrangement to suit them, and hopefully their employer.

Split the working week up

Some pairs split the week 50:50 – two and a half days each, swapping midday on Wednesday. One partner might work three days, the other, two. They might have a day together, or they might never see each other at work. Perhaps the ideal is three days each, which gives you both a bit of extra pay and a full day of crossover, but relies on the employer stumping up the extra salary for a 1.2 full-time equivalent post.

Get your employer on side

But before you get to that, you need an understanding employer in the first place, who embraces job sharing as part of its family friendly policy, or is at least willing to ‘take a chance’. Certainly not every boss is keen on the idea. They can easily see the potential for confusion, lack of continuity and missed deadlines. But can they see the advantages to having a job share? You might need to point these out, to get them on your side.

Have you ever interviewed and been unable to decide between two different but equally good candidates? With a job share you can get both – two people give you a broader range of experience, a wider network of business contacts, and complementary skills.

Can job sharing create more energy in the office?

Some full-time workers might start winding down for the weekend round about 3pm on a Thursday. But with job sharers you’re getting a fresh pair of eyes, and new energy twice a week. And anyone who’s worked part-time will tell you they get more done in their three working days, than they used to in three- fifths of a full-time working week.

Job sharing gives you more family time

Another plus is that, for some reason, job sharers tend not to book holidays at the same time. There’s no reason they shouldn’t – it’d be the same as one full-time worker being off, after all – but they seem to try and have someone in the office for some time each week. A single worker can’t offer that. And two heads really are better than one. With job sharers, you have built-in brainstorming potential, and each will be keen to benefit from the other’s strengths and knowledge to make the job share work.

Job sharers are unlikely to be competitive with each other. The majority want a part-time role to allow them to spend more time with their children; others find it complements voluntary or freelance work. So they’re not going to do anything to jeopardise its success.

So, how do you make it work?

The keystones are good organisation and good communication. Make sure you set up systems and schedules that suit you both, and are clear to others, particularly any sceptical managers. Shared folders where everything you both need is saved, along with clear filing and labelling systems, will keep everything neat and accessible. And how about a joint email address so people don’t have to worry about which of you is in on any given day? It’s worth thinking about splitting up some of your responsibilities so there is clear accountability for strategic work and you can build relationships with colleagues. And have clear handovers (email or face-to-face) so that day-to-day and urgent work can be passed back and forth effectively.Jobsharing: How does it work

You might already know your job share partner – colleagues who return from maternity leave at the same time, for instance, or friends hunting for a new job together.  So you’ll understand each other’s background and work style, and you’ll already know you get on. But your employer might recruit someone to back-fill the rest of your post, or even take on two new staff in a job share, if the best people for the job both want to work part-time.  If you don’t already know your partner, you need to fix that. Use any crossover time for relationship building as well as work. If you work entirely separate hours, think about carving out some time together – meet for lunch, Skype in the evenings, or swap your days occasionally so you can work together.

When it works well, a job share can give you the family friendly arrangement you need, and you can take comfort that the work will carry on when you’re not there. But don’t take advantage – make sure you’re pulling your weight, you can’t afford for the relationship to turn sour!




About Alison McKay

About Alison McKay

Alison McKay is a charity PR professional with over 15 years' experience in full-time, part-time and jobshare roles. Since being made redundant while on maternity leave, she has divided her time between working for a local museum, freelance and volunteer writing, and being chief wrangler to a two-year-old mud-magnet and an almost-seven-year-old wannabe dog-care worker with a penchant for hair accessories. Alison's hobbies include yoga, reading cookery books and putting away just enough clean laundry to keep the pile below 3ft tall.

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