What is Job Sharing?


Peggy began her first job-sharing arrangement when she became pregnant with her second child. A customer support representative for a technology firm, Peggy approached her boss about the prospect of going part-time. As it turned out, her boss had a solution. His wife's best friend, who worked for a competitor, was also expecting and looking to reduce her hours. At his suggestion, the women began sharing the job shortly after Peggy returned from maternity leave.

Peggy worked the morning shift and her job partner took over in the afternoon. Peggy loved having more time with her kids, but she no longer found her job rewarding. She became increasingly frustrated with her partner, who had a very different working style and showed little interest in keeping Peggy informed of the status of work orders and what was going on with their clients.

To keep clients happy and prevent things from falling through the cracks, Peggy began putting in an extra hour each day (unpaid) to help with the transition. Her partner resented this and accused Peggy of trying to make her look bad. After much bickering, Peggy was forced to return to the job full-time.

Peggy's story is a familiar one. While nearly all agree that job sharing is a great way to create a sense of work/life balance, many report diminished levels of job satisfaction as well as tensions with their job-share partner.

"The most important aspect of a job-sharing arrangement is the professionals who are part of the team," says Kathy Tenenbaum, a partner at Job Sharing Resources, an employment services company dedicated to job sharing.

"Not only do you need two people with the right skills and experience, you have to find partners who don't mind sharing, who won't get proprietary about the work or be too controlling, who have similar styles, communicate well and like to work as a team."

"Job sharing isn't for everyone," warns Kathy Smith, a benefits consultant who has been part of a job-share team for seven years. "If you're overly competitive, insecure or a control-freak, you're better off in some other type of part-time arrangement."

"You need to be secure, and know how to manage your time, let go of control and work so closely with somebody that you can share a phone, a desk, and any credit or blame."

"You need to find another person whom you know you can work well with as a team... Someone with a similar philosophical and practical approach to the business," adds Peggy, who has since found a job-share partner with whom she is compatible.

"From there, it takes a lot of communication, coordination and strategizing as to how to come up with an arrangement and system for working that will best get the job done. For example, should you work interchangeably and perform the same tasks? Divide your caseloads so that you each work on different projects and with different clients? Or should you perform separate tasks according to your own strengths and skill sets?"

In her new arrangement, Peggy and her job-share partner perform the same tasks, but to ensure a smooth transition, they spend a half of a day working together.

"We found that instead of splitting into morning and afternoon shifts, which in effect requires five transitions per week, it's better if we work full days," Peggy says.

"I work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, while my partner comes in part of Wednesday, and works all day Thursday and Friday. This not only makes the hand-off easier, but reduces our transportation costs as well."

Human Resources expert Lori Kocon agrees that it's best to have some overlap, so that both partners can be in the office at the same time to communicate about various projects and priorities. In addition, she offers a few final tips for job-share partners:

  • Work cooperatively, not competitively.

  • Establish hand-off procedures and stick to them.

  • Be honest and open.

  • Present a unified front to customers, co-workers and company management.

  • Make sure everyone understands your arrangement and work patterns.

  • Be flexible with one another.

  • Above all, communicate, communicate, communicate!

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