When the concept of job sharing started to formulise in the 1970's it was primarily seen as a solution for the baby boomers to continue working. This idea has come a long way over the last fifty years. What was once considered the future of work is now a flexible working mainstay that's continuously challenging the landscape of traditional employment models. In fact, Job Sharing is consistently highlighted in the UK Governments Flexible Working legislation, most recently in the consultation published in Spetember 2021 about expanded flexible working to be a day one right for employees.
Job sharing offers unrivalled opportunities for people of all ages and genders, in all levels of seniority, to enjoy a tailored work-life balance without compromising on career progression or personal development. Perceptions around what a career should be, and where the line should be drawn between those who work full-time and those who don't, have shifted significantly.
Hybrid working has enabled millions of people to have more location flexibility in their careers. Job sharing offers the best opportunity for people to add flexibility to how much they work without compromising on the type of job they want, something all too often the case with part-time working.
What is a job share?
In its purest form, a job share entails two part-time employees carrying out the complete role of one full-time employee. Business objectives are shared, and the job share employees work as a team in accordance with their unique combination of skills, interests and personal contribution. Responsibility for the role is shared, however, the employees can either be measured together as a team or separately as individuals. Salary, workplace benefits, holidays and perks are shared in accordance with the job share contract, usually on a pro-rata basis.
Job sharing allows individuals to progress their careers within high profile, senior positions on a part-time basis, without compromising on the types of roles they may be able to find in part-time employment alone. Part-time is a useful type of flexible working in many instances but all too often people have to compromise on the type of role they want. Companies view too many roles as full-time hours only or lack the desire to redesign jobs to be suitable for reduced hours.
Benefits of a job share
The breadth of people working in job shares has continuously shown nearly all jobs can be shared regardless of skill level or seniority. Many high-profile management job share teams where the partnership looks after high value public-facing contracts, or oversees large-scale projects, have enjoyed greater success as a job share unit than they would have done as individual employees.
The greatest benefit for both companies and employees is the dynamic nature of the job share partnership, with each party bringing a unique set of complementary skills and experiences to the team. This often creates a more skill complete employee and offers both the employees an excellent learning opportunity within their combined role.
Benefits for the Employee
For employees, the key motivator for seeking a job share role is to continue their career progression with flexibility around how much they work. Job share roles facilitate growth and opportunities without compromising on the work-life balance. Working reduced hours reduces workplace fatigue, eases feelings of pressure or burnout and gives employees the ability to completely switch off on their days off, knowing their role is covered.
Job sharing is not just for parents hoping to spend more time with their families. Many employees in flexible roles have other caring commitments such as looking after an elderly or ill relative. Employees in job share roles may wish to pursue other paths including part-time study, professional work, voluntary work or developing their personal interests.
Older employees who are reaching retirement age can benefit from reduced hours in a job share capacity. This allows the employee to feel less pressure while imparting their valuable skills and experience onto younger employees. Some older employees may not want to retire, so job share can be a convenient way for these employees to continue their work in a smaller, more manageable capacity.
Those working full-time in senior managerial positions often report that 'it gets lonely at the top.' Sharing a role with someone else creates a built-in support system, with a strong sense of solidarity and teamwork. The effect is reduced workplace loneliness with improved job satisfaction.
Having a shared workload develops a sense of focus within teams. Job share partnerships often report an increase in productivity, better capacity for decision-making, and a strong desire to make it work in order to shift perceptions on the viability of job share roles. This frequently prompts employees in job share roles to push themselves harder to achieve success, without needing to overwork themselves by committing to long hours or more demanding working conditions.
Job share roles provide motivated employees with excellent opportunities for promotions, career growth and continuous learning. Partnerships are often formed due to a unique combination of skills between the job share partners, so these teams generally learn well from each other to boost their combined performance as they bounce ideas off each other and solve problems together.
Working in a job share team allows employees to enjoy a work-life balance that suits their needs, without compromising on their long-term career goals.
Part-time vs job share
When compared to part-time work, job share roles tend to be more interesting positions offering more paths towards successful career progression. This is highlighted in the Working Families Modern Families Index which shows people working in part-time roles are less likely to expect to be promoted than their full-time peers. So how to they differ:
- Part-time jobs involve one employee carrying out a single role on a part-time basis, whereas job share roles split one full-time position into two part-time segments.
- Job shares require continuous liaison between two parties who share common business objectives and work towards joint goals. Part-time roles are self-contained roles where one person works towards the required objectives and outcomes.
- Part-time employees are responsible for their full role and take full accountability for their success or failure. Job share teams share responsibility for their role, though at times those in the partnership may be measured and assessed separately according to their individual performance.
Generally speaking, part-time roles tend to be smaller if they are designed well. Work is reduced to reflect fewer hours in the role. Job shares can be created in just about any position, allowing two part-time employees to hold jobs deemed as full-time only.
Workers in skilled or senior roles may try to reduce their hours to a part-time position without shrinking the scope of their job or sharing it. This can lead to higher levels of stress and fatigue if the workload continues to pile up during the hours the employee is not working. In a job share role, the work is always covered by the other person during days off.
Job share roles encourage personal growth, provide more opportunities and reduce pressure for a better overall work-life balance.
Types of job shares
Every job share is unique and should be custom designed by placing the needs of the employees alongside the needs of the company. Some roles are better split according the preferred hours and scheduling, while other roles are best divided in line with individual strengths and skills within the job share team as outlined below:
- Pure job shares: two people share one full role, with both employees working at the same level of skill, input and seniority. These employees take equal responsibility for the role and are usually assessed together.
- Job splits: one job is carried out by two people as two relatively unrelated part-time roles, such as teachers who offer different course modules within the same subject. The workload is divided into parts according to project type, clients, areas of expertise or skill level. These job share teams share related goals and have joint responsibilities, but their performance is usually measured individually.
- Hybrid job shares: two people undertake one complex role, using complementary skills to fill the gaps in a position that might otherwise have required two separate employees, such as marketing teams where one person looks after digital analytics and the other manages the creative content. These teams may divide responsibility within their combined role, and they can be assessed together or separately depending on the nature of the job shared.
- Job support: one person reduces their hours to part-time work but retains full responsibility for their role. A junior employee is then hired to step in and cover some of their tasks during their days off, without sharing in the success or failure of the role.
In job split and hybrid roles it is often possible for both members of the job share team to both work the same days, in effect creating double the workforce for half the time within their team. This has the advantage of enhancing collaboration within the partnership, and further stimulates their sense teamwork and synergy.
The beauty of job share roles is their inherent capacity for flexibility, allowing companies and individuals to create any solution that works best for their circumstances.
Deciding if a job share is for you
With the right level of consideration, it should be possible to share any job, but it takes a special kind of person to thrive in a job share partnership. Good partnerships rely on trust and teamwork, with strong communication and the ability to be flexible towards the needs of others.
Before considering accepting a job share role, take a moment to think about why you want to reduce your hours, and what you hope to achieve in your life and career. Job share roles are well suited to those who are motivated and driven to develop their career with reduced hours. Co-ordinating job share roles is challenging and stimulating, so demand additional level of input from both parties to ensure the team will succeed.
Soft skills that are most desired by employers are some of the top skills required for job sharers. Take some time to assess yourself with honesty in the key areas listed below:
- Do you have a flexible, proactive approach with a high level of initiative?
- Can you adapt easily to unforeseen changes with a can-do attitude?
- Are you self-motivated, and willing to push yourself for success?
- How easily can you share success?
- Are you confident, self-aware, self-assured and willing to learn from critique?
- Do you remain calm under pressure?
- Can you make level-headed decisions on your own?
- Do you have sound judgement and discipline?
- In team situations, are you able to take shared responsibility without blame?
- How readily do you take ownership of your contributions towards success or failure?
- Are you proactive and driven, with a strong desire to continuously improve?
- Does collaboration, conflict resolution and open communication come naturally?
- Are you organised, focused, able to manage projects and great with the details?
- Do you trust others, and do you feel trustworthy?
- Can you afford to take a salary cut?
Great partnerships take time to develop, but with the right skills and the right attitude, a successful job share team can progress together through many different roles, companies, and promotions as a unit.
You may be looking to change employer by moving to a new company that can offer you a job share opportunity, or you might be looking to find a way to keep your current position with reduced hours. If job sharing is right for you, it's important to think about the type of job share that can work best for you, and how you can make it successful through your own actions, then go out and get it.