And what you can learn from my mistakes.
Several years ago, a colleague and I were both going on maternity leave at the same time. A managerial role had come up that we both wanted and had done before. Neither of us wanted to work full-time when we came back from maternity leave, so a job share could have worked perfectly for us. We spent days planning out how we could share the role, at the encouragement of our superiors, and diligently worked through all the pro’s and cons, which days we could each do, how many meetings we would attend and how to manage things like emails and phone calls.
So, why didn’t it work?
In hindsight, it was the employer’s short-sighted approach at that time, and we let them steamroll us into a different option (my colleague got the full-time role, I stepped back). While we were both distracted by our upcoming leave, we didn’t fight hard enough for it and let their excuses of being easier for them to just have one manager to deal with win. We had both been so caught up in how perfect it would be for us if we could job share and had neglected to focus on how much better it would be for the employer if we did. And when they felt like we were getting a better deal at their expense, they pulled the plug on the idea.
Think about a schedule where you could come in half days or only work a few days a week. How would your life be different? What if you could do that in your current position or in something very similar?
The world of work is changing and companies are becoming more open to flexible working arrangements. This is fantastic news for those of us who don’t want to work fifty hours a week in pursuit of a paycheck! (or can’t because we have other commitments). One way you can keep the benefits of working in a job you love but with limited hours is by job sharing.
Why Job Share?
Job sharing can be a great way to work part-time while still earning benefits and working in a professional role. Many times it’s difficult to take time off to raise a child, but many mothers want to spend more time with their kids than a full-time job allows.
Job sharing allows you to work in a more flexible way. You can choose to work every day in a reduced schedule or a few full days a week. Even a combination of the two could work if your manager is open to it.
How Does It Work?
In most cases, job sharing involves splitting one job between two or more people. The company is only having to pay for one headcount but is able to employ two people. These two people will work part-time, giving them both flexibility to work alternative schedules.
The Queensland Government website explains there are two different types of job sharing – The Twin Model and The Islands Model. With the twin model, two employees literally share the job and have to communicate to get the tasks done because they are constantly handing off tasks to each other. In this model, everyone is equally responsible for the success (or otherwise) of the work. This takes a lot more co-operation and planning but has potentially greater rewards for the team.
In the island’s model, the employees split the responsibilities and are more independent of each other. This is good if you like to take charge of your own work more, and might be split by site, areas of oversight or different parts of a project.
What Isn’t So Great?
Job sharing can limit your ability to move up to the next level. Opportunities can be limited, making it difficult to be promoted. Managers may be hesitant to hire you for a higher level position if you are now job sharing. It may also be difficult to get the new manager to agree to continue letting you job share.
One other downside might be that only one person can do some parts, like presentations, travel or high-level meetings. This can be good, as it means one person isn’t totally responsible, but you’ll need to work out in advance who’ll do what.
Choosing a Job Share partner
Sometimes, a job share partner can be forced upon you, by circumstances. If you’re fortunate enough to have a say in who you share with, consider someone with complementary skills to yours, who will bring out the best in you.
- your own work style – are you a leader, or happy to have someone else take the lead
- your own communication style – do you need to lift your organisational game or tone down your bossy boots?
- What you can bring to the role in the time you have available.
If you have difficulty working where a ton of communication and lots of organisation is required, this agreement may not work for you. Being organised is an absolute necessity as you are working with another person and you need to rely on each other. If you end up sharing a position with someone who doesn’t have these qualities, you may be in for a difficult time.
A word of warning though – be careful before choosing a friend to job share with. Just like sharing a house can be the end of many a good friendship, sharing a job can be even worse. Think about everything you know and have seen of your friend. Who do they blame when times are tough? What’s their strength when they’re under pressure? Why have they left other jobs in the past? Taking some time to really critically analyse them as a potential job-share partner can save a lot of tears and heartbreak down the track.
Consider also, where you both are in your career/family/life – what if one of you has another child, or leaves the job – where would that leave you and your position? What if a promotion comes up and you both want it? what happens if one of you wants to go full-time?
You are both invested in your career, personally and financially – you need to make sure you will all benefit from the arrangement, and get all the answers down in writing before you start.
Shared Success, shared failure
What if your partner doesn’t pull their weight? or despite your best efforts, your project doesn’t work out as planned? Having a strategy in place to prevent these issues before they escalate can mean the difference between success and failure of the partnership.
The best way to convince your manager to allow you to start this arrangement is to find someone to split your job with you. Is there a coworker that is also interested in a job sharing arrangement? Get together and come up with a plan of how you would split the work. Create a presentation detailing the benefits of you doing this. Make sure you point out the ways the arrangement can benefit the company. Think about the ways two employees are better than one! Collaboration and fresh perspective are two of the biggest positives you can pitch.
If you don’t think your manager will go for it or they already turned it down, check out a site like Jobs Shared to help you connect with employers and people like you who are looking to job share. They even run speed dating events to match job sharers with potential partners and employers.
Before you start your pitch, we’ve put together a planning sheet to guide you through all the potential issues before you start. Download your copy here.
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