Job sharing is a type of flexible work arrangement in which two people cooperatively share the same full-time position or job.
Although slowly rising in popularity in the private sector, job sharing is not a new or revolutionary practice. For some industries, job sharing has been part of daily practice for decades.
Examples of such professions include nursing staff, doctors, service technicians, technical support services and public transport staff to name but a few. In each instance mentioned above, two or more people share the same responsibilities and “take over” when the other’s shift is over. This results in continuous and uninterrupted service for the consumer.
At the dawn of a post COVID-19 world, where the working environment is being reinvented as we speak, shared working arrangements could be the answer businesses and employees have been looking for to ride the wave.
A great alternative to layoffs, job sharing could give businesses the opportunity to hire more people for practically the same price, which benefits both employers and employees who’ve lost work.
Furthermore, in an increasingly connected and digitalised world, being able to offer uninterrupted service to customers is a huge plus for some businesses.
Job sharing could very well be the future of work post COVID-19. But before we look at why that is, let’s delve into how it works, what a job sharing arrangement looks like in practice and how it’s different to part-time.
How does job sharing work?
There are 2 basic job sharing models: the twin or the islands model.
The twins model
In the twins model (which can be categorised as “job sharing”), two employees work together on the same projects but on different days or at different times. In this instance, job share partners work as a team to complete their shared goals.
For this model to work, communication and transparency are paramount as partners do not work face to face or alongside each other, instead working one after the other, picking up where the other left off.
The islands model
On the other hand, the islands model (which is regarded as more of a “job split”) sees job sharers working independently on different tasks and projects.
This setup is perfect for partners who have complementary, but different skills as they can use each of their strengths to complete the work required. This model involves a lot of trust as each person works on a project from A to Z without involving the other.
Aside from these 2 foundational models, job share partners and employers may agree on different job sharing arrangements, including but not limited to: half or split week, half or split days as well as alternate weeks.
The setup your business ends up choosing will depend on the nature of the job and what preferences and skills each partner can bring to the table. There is no right or wrong, merely what’s best for the parties involved.
How is job sharing different from part-time work?
Although at first glance, it appears as though conventional part-time work and job sharing are similar, there are in fact considerable differences between the two. In truth, the only commonality they do have is the reduced number of working hours.
The most obvious difference is that someone working part-time is expected to fulfill the job by themselves, whilst still working shorter hours. Their responsibilities, tasks and projects are their own.
On the other hand, job sharers share the one role, and as such, also share the responsibilities, tasks & projects.
Furthermore, more often than not, part-timers report a decrease or poor work-life balance, in polar opposite to job sharing. Why is that? Because part-timers are often expected to squeeze a full-time job into half the time.
This is not always the employers fault, and occasionally occurs when the employee is unable to “log off”. But most times, this occurs simply because there isn’t enough thought put into how to accommodate both the employee’s needs as well as the business’ goals.
This doesn’t only negatively impact the employee, but also the employer. If the employee is overworked and under-paid (working over time), their engagement and will to do their best is naturally going to diminish. This increases the chance for error, which can have drastic impacts on your bottom line.
Additionally, if you have an urgent need for something to be completed, but the staff member is off, this hinders your organisation’s agility and productivity.
On the flip side, due to the time sovereignty and close collaboration as a team, job sharing allows for a more optimised way of working.
For example, because of their complimentary skills, job sharers can cover for each other during holiday leave or when one is ill. This means their shared position is covered at least half of the time, if not full-time.
Since there are 2 people sharing the one job, not only does this improve work continuity and coverage but it also means that there is a continuity of skills and knowledge in the case one decides to leave. And this is only one example of many benefits.
Thus, contrary to the part-time work arrangement, the job sharing model benefits both the business and the employee.
What does a job sharing partnership look like in practice?
Since job sharing is a flexible working arrangement, it can take on many forms and almost all time divisions are possible. Classically, there’s the 50/50 split of a 100% position. In practice, however, other options can be observed such as 30/70, 40/60, 20/80 – the world is your oyster.
It’s also worth noting that a job sharing split doesn’t always have to amount to 100% in total. Other common divisions include 60/60 or 70/70. This variant is particularly well suited for tasks that were previously completely understaffed with just one person, but don’t warrant 2 full-time positions.
Such arrangements are also particularly valuable for management or leadership positions, where having an overlap or joint day of the week for handovers is particularly useful.
Regarding the exact working hours, job sharing tandems are in theory completely flexible. In practice, of course, it makes sense in many cases to agree on fixed times and divisions (for example, in the morning/afternoon, Monday–Tuesday/Wednesday–Friday) so that team members, colleagues, and supervisors can also work out who is there and when.
As we continue to veer towards an increasingly remote work culture as well due to COVID-19, it is incredibly important to agree upon a roster so that there is as much transparency as possible. This should help avoid any miscommunication that could occur.
How do you organise the day-to-day of job sharing?
Once the job share has been successfully initiated, the tandem has to decide in concrete terms how to organise tasks, time distribution and communication together. Among other things, the job sharers have to think about what their week should look like.
This depends on many factors such as how many hours both tandem partners work, what their personal situations are as well as what the business goals are.
As a result, some job sharers may work 2–3 full days whilst others are there the whole week, but only for half days. In the end, there is no golden rule, as this is completely dependent on your staff and your business model.
Like in any other team or collaborative scenario, we highly recommend investing in a project management tool to help both the job sharers and their manager keep track of what has been accomplished and what has yet to be completed.
Additionally to agreeing on the timing, for the day-today to work successfully, it is crucial for job sharers, their manager as well as their employer to determine and agree upon some best practices for:
– The Division of Responsibilities
Who will be in charge of what? Depending on the model chosen, will responsibilities be divided equally and remain the same, or will they flow depending on the project at hand?
– Task Areas
Similarly to the division of responsibilities, will each job sharer have a “specialty” and always perform the same type of tasks? Or will projects be assessed individually and different tasks assigned each time?
– Substitution in the Case of Illness & Holiday
When someone is ill or on leave, will the other pick up the slack or continue working the same hours? Will projects be put on hold or should the job sharer pursue them while the other one is away?
Who will take meetings? Are both parties expected to participate or only the person in charge of that project or task?
These are just a few aspects and questions to consider. To help you delve into these more, here is an overview of how you can organise your daily routine in a job share.
Why introduce job sharing within your business?
Job sharing offers a variety of benefits for both employees & employers.
For employers, a key benefit is ascertaining constant coverage whilst still being able to offer the job flexibility necessary to retain great staff.
For instance, if your business or industry requires you to offer 24h support or has critical and timely deliverables, utilising a job sharing option could be highly beneficial for your bottom line as it translates into an ability to cover more hours within a day. This is especially useful as more and more businesses veer away from off-shore support lines.
In that same vein, if you’re a global business but don’t have a physical presence in each of the locations in which you sell, job sharing can help you remain accessible and contactable across geographies at any given time.
If you don’t recognise yourself in any of the above examples, don’t fret. Regardless of your business size, industry or location, job sharing is particularly helpful when it comes to handling workload alongside employee leave.
In simpler terms, by having a job sharing arrangement, you make sure the position is covered at least half time, if not full-time. This means that your business can ascertain deliverables stay on track, regardless of when and if employees need to take leave or not.
On a different note, job sharing is incredibly beneficial for talent attraction, retention and engagement. More specifically, by offering more flexible work arrangements, you’re able to attract and retain a more diverse set of talents than you would otherwise.
For example, for those returning from parental leave or for partial retirees, job sharing could be the perfect middle ground to keep expert talent that you’ve spent money training, as well as a great way to better share knowledge in-house.
Job sharing is also a great instrument to promote women in a targeted way and to facilitate part-time leadership.
Speaking of co-leadership, businesses looking to be more agile can implement job sharing as a strategic measure to avoid knowledge silos at the management level and to initiate a new leadership culture.
Finally, as we transition into a post COVID-19 world, flexibility and work-life balance will be highly sought after by both senior and junior employees. If your business wants to remain competitive and agile in the face of the crisis, not only will it need to pivot it’s business model, but also it’s working arrangements, to cater to the changing market. Job sharing could be the answer to doing both.
These are but a few benefits. If you’re keen to delve into those more, don’t hesitate to check out our comprehensive list here.
As we enter a new era, one that is more digitised and connected than ever, your business has the power to perform better and do better by its employees. How? Simply by offering more flexibility.
Job sharing is by no means the secret sauce to success. What it does though is empower your business to explore different avenues and be more creative in its service or product delivery. In conjunction to this, it also offers you the chance to be more humane, empathetic and inclusive.
Finally, job sharing helps your business become more agile and resilient to change, and in this climate, that is the best you can ask for.