Job sharing: could it be a new, vibrant facet of the ‘sharing economy’? An economy that is not only about sharing goods but full-time jobs between people? An increasing number of people are taking up and enjoying the benefits of this working arrangement*.
Catherine Rickwood dug a little deeper into the growing job sharing trend. We interviewed Veronica and Deena – some real-life job sharers – to find out about their experience and learnings from over 18 months of sharing a demanding role at a local council.
Despite our knowledge of the benefits to the organisation and the employee of flexible working arrangements, we were still surprised at just how positive and rewarding the experience has been for them. In fact, the intergenerational nature of their arrangement has made it even more so. Veronica is energised by Deena’s “fresh” and “exciting” initiatives and new ways of doing things. While Deena appreciates the wealth of knowledge, established relationships and political know-how that Veronica brings to the table.
From our interview, we identified three tips** we believe are more widely applicable to employers, HR, hiring managers and anyone else with an interest in providing more flexible options, such as job sharing, to their workforce.
No.1: Know your strengths and personalities
One thing’s for sure: Veronica and Deena didn’t just walk blindly into job sharing. At the outset, they did their due diligence to ensure their strengths complemented each other. In addition, considering their big personalities, they tested the waters to establish they were actually compatible when it came to working together.
What also benefited them both was being able to relate to each other at a personal level. As Veronica put it:
“Deena is the same age as one of my daughters. And then having a baby at around the time my children are having our grandchildren. So there was a connection there around people we care for personally.”
No. 2: Maintain open and honest communication
Veronica and Deena have often found that having each other to talk to provides a different perspective. It can often lead to a more efficient and effective approach to a project or solving a problem. In particular, it can be useful when resolving conflicts that arise.
To ensure the ongoing success of their working relationship, Veronica and Deena have a review process. This provides a forum through which they can speak openly and honestly about their working relationship, voice concerns, and discuss how they could do things differently in future. In ways that work for both of them.
“If we come up against challenges, we find out the reason it isn’t working and do it differently.”
They’ve also realised the importance of having ownership over certain tasks and projects to the sustainability of their job share arrangement. Ultimately, this is only possible by committing to regular communication to keep each other across what the other is working on.
“We don’t work on many tasks together. We have our own portfolios, which works really well.”
No. 3: Ensure HR support
Veronica and Deena are lucky enough to have a HR Department that recognises the benefits of job sharing and flexibility. As a result, they have been very supportive of Veronica and Deena’s arrangement. This has made it easier for them to negotiate hours and responsibilities that suit them.
The key to successful job sharing and for its wider replication in other organisations, is acknowledging the positive impact flexible work arrangements have on organisational productivity. Not to mention the huge opportunities this creates for more people to remain at work.
*Job sharing is an arrangement where two or more employees share the demands of a job that traditionally one person working full-time undertakes.