Job sharing is a new way of looking at part time work and what it entails is essentially splitting a full-time position into two part-time jobs. Job sharing is becoming an increasingly popular flexible work arrangement, although many employers might be skeptical about whether it is really possible to carve up roles and job scope between two employees.

Reasons for job sharing

There are many reasons that lead employees to choose a job sharing arrangement – it might be to take care of a dependent or to advance one’s education. Many new parents also opt for this flexible way of working when returning to work after having a child.

However, the job sharing arrangement can prove challenging, and both job sharing partners will have to find ways to share the role thoughtfully and intelligently, as well as convince their employer to trust them to get the job done.

What makes for a successful job share?

An employer will need to carefully assess the situation to ascertain whether a job share would work well in the particular circumstance in question. One way to do so is to conceptualise all different parts of the job and divide them up effectively. For example, some people split the work by each taking responsibility for certain tasks. This is called the ‘islands model’ or a ‘job split’. Others simply divide the workload based on days they are at work. This is called the ‘twins model’ and is usually slightly easier to implement.

Every job is unique, and the model or way you choose to slice any given job will depend on its nature as well as the preferences and skills both employees bring to the table. Here are some guidelines:

  • The work is clearly assigned and divided between the employees. The workload must be regularly monitored to ensure that an imbalance in workload between the two parties does not arise.
  • Clear lines of responsibility and decision making must be defined to avoid any confusion around who takes the lead on specific tasks.
  • The job sharers’ respective skill-sets and knowledge must complement each other and offer an effective combination of expertise.
  • Robust channels of communication must be established between the employees undertaking the job share. Excellent communication is a prerequisite to avoid misunderstandings, inaccuracies or failure to relay important information.

What employees can get out of job sharing

There are many benefits that employees can get out of a job sharing arrangement. For example, they can retain the level of responsibility and strategic weight of a full time position but still enjoy the flexibility of part time hours. There can also be an exchange of skills and knowledge between job sharers especially if they have complementary skills, experience and perspectives.

Other benefits include maintaining a level of seniority with their organisation while changing the structure of their hours, as well as meeting the demands of a challenging role while upholding an improved work-life balance.

Benefits for the employer

When employees have an improved work-life balance, it might just motivate them to go the extra mile, allowing this to become a win-win situation for the job sharers as well as the company. This usually leads to a better retention of high performing employees who are seeking more flexibility due to a change in personal circumstances, and a more relaxed, satisfied and happy workforce - potentially leading to higher productivity and reduced absenteeism. Having an extra head count onboard also gives you the ability to cover sickness and holiday leave, giving better continuity of cover.

Finally, the saying, ‘two heads are better than one’ holds true here, as you can widen your workforce to include a good mixture of skill-sets and complementary combination of experience and approach.

Whatever the reasons for implementing a job sharing option in your organisation, you’ll need to keep trying out various arrangements to see what works best. Set a pilot period and experiment with how the work is split up and communicate this to your company, tweaking and adjusting as you go along. Continually reassess and make adjustments to the job based on what’s working for each of your employees, and job sharing might just work for your organisation.

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