Real life tips to make job sharing work

Have you ever considered going for a job sharing position? Or, if you are an employer, offering a role on this basis? According to a 2017 study by Timewise, “more than 2 in 5 hirers would consider recruiting for senior roles on a job share basis.” 

Which shouldn’t be much of a surprise because the benefits of this type of flexible working can be enormous. From the business perspective, these include getting two brains for the price of one, year round job coverage and improved staff morale. 

And for the employees there’s the opportunity to enjoy even the most senior position while maintaining work-life balance. The Timewise Power Part Time List includes high profile job sharers including Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartlet, joint leaders of the Green Party; Anushka Asthana and Heather Stewart, joint political editors at The Guardian; and Alix Ainsley and Charlotte Cherry, group operations directors of Lloyds Banking Group

But as with any degree of flexibility, there are issues to consider if the process work is going to work to maximum efficiency. We asked people who have experienced this sort of role for their tips on getting it right.

7 September 2018

Communication is key


Jan Hills is a partner at Head, Heart + Brain Leadership Consultancy and author of Brain-Savvy Wo+Man, Brain-Savvy Business and Brain-Savvy HR. She has managed job share situations and believes the individuals involved need to have a number of key attributes.


“The two people need to communicate well,” she says. “They should have no ego about who gets praise for what - one person's success is the other person’s success. It also helps also if they like and respect each other.”


As we’ve already mentioned, the advantage of creating a job share role is getting two brains for the price of one. But that also means coordination between two people who may well be very different and have different ways of doing things.


A job share situation needs to be well managed and that starts with communication. This should include both formal communication, such as handover notes that allow operations to run smoothly, and regular check ins to ensure that there are no underlying niggles that are left to fester and grow into genuine problems.


Make flexible flexible


Sarah Davies worked as a nursery teacher on a job share basis for a number of years, doing Mondays, Tuesdays and half of Wednesday while her colleague looked after the other half of the week.


She says, “I once freaked a headteacher out by going in on ‘not your day’ when my job share partner suddenly wasn't able to work a particular day. We just sorted a swap between us because we had a good working relationship.”


In trying to define exactly what flexibility looks like, it can be all too easy to get trapped into being rigid. Where possible, employers should try to keep an open mind to how the staffing system works. If someone on your team usually works a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for example, don’t be afraid to consider letting them do a Monday, Tuesday and Thursday one week if they need to switch for an important reason.


Prioritise clarity at all times


Jennifer Riggins spent 3.5 years working in a full job share team before going freelance. She says, “Clarify who does what but also allow everyone to have the freedom to offer ideas and to experiment. This makes sure that all important pieces are done, but that you get external advice and feedback towards improvements large and small. Oh and definitely clarify who is getting paid for what!”


It can be tricky to figure out team roles and responsibility at the best of times. Ensuring that all tasks are covered without gaps or overlaps takes a skilled manager. And if you add flexibility into the mix, with some people sharing roles and others working part time or from home, for example, it can make that even more complex.


However, by being clear on these roles and responsibilities, as well as creating simple and agreed processes to manage job share situations, it can actually create an even greater level of accountability and teamwork than solo working.


Jan Hills adds, “Job sharers should have a methodology for knowing what each has done on their days and stick to it so the client or customer doesn’t have to do the catch up work. And they should build in time for agreeing tactical and strategic approaches to major bits of work so they approach thing in a similar way.”


For more advice on setting up and hiring for a job share role, get in touch today.