If you aren’t aware of job sharing, you have come to the right place. In this article we’ll tell you everything about it and why it’s such a great idea for the modern workplace. Job sharing, or role sharing, simply refers to two people sharing a full-time job; the role is split equally between both employees. Although job sharing is still relatively unknown and there’s still a lot of questions surrounding its successful implementation, it has so many benefits, and not just for the individuals, but for the companies too.
Most obviously, it gives people the choice to stay in a job whilst focussing on other priorities, i.e. caring responsibilities. Even in 2021, women are still faced with the dilemma of having to pick between starting a family or having a successful career. Although we are told that we can ‘have it all,’ the reality is that many women end up completely burned out and stressed. The pandemic has highlighted just how much inequality there is between the genders and ‘unpaid’ work – childcare and housework. Despite positive changes coming in and more paternity leave being offered, the gender norms continue to persist, and women in senior roles often feel like their only choice is exit the workplace in order to have children.
Fortunately, increased calls for flexibility (partly brought on by the pandemic) are changing traditional workplace expectations, thus paving the way for role sharing in different professions. As role sharing allows employees to share job hours, responsibilities, and work flexibly, there is an obvious win for women that want to keep working whilst starting a family.
Women having children are, of course, not the only demographic that can benefit though. Role sharing can be a good option for anyone, of any gender or age, where part-time hours allow for a better quality of life when balancing their priorities. Perhaps this is childcare, perhaps its caring for elderly parents or a sick loved one, maybe personally dealing with an chronic illness or deciding to run a passion-focussed business; whatever the reason, job sharing ensures top talent is retained in organisations.
Sophie Smallwood, the founder of RoleShare, a new platform that matches candidates for role shares, says “flexible working as a whole shouldn’t be seen as gender-specific. To widen the pool of opportunities to work this way it needs to be gender and reason agnostic. Anyone who loves to be a team player and seeks to work in an agile fashion can also potentially be a great role share candidate.”
Sophie believes that role sharing has existed for as long as hospitals have been in business; “Doctors, nurses, midwives transfer the care of patients on a daily basis. Co-founders also share roles.” Before deciding whether a job fits role sharing or not, a few things must be considered though, according to Sophie.
“The first thing to do is weigh the job – is the job too big for one person? Next, check the sensitivity of the job – does the job require 24/7 coverage? And lastly, consider the talent attraction and retention for the job.
“Opening traditional jobs to role share helps companies include overlooked clusters of talent who otherwise might leave the company because they seek flexibility or not apply at all because they seek part-time hours.” Sophie expects that role sharing will become mainstream, as a “working model for forward-thinking companies who understand the shift in talent sourcing.”
Hannah Hall-Turner and Rachel Maguire are founders of the Job Share Pair, where they work directly with companies to offer and implement more job sharing roles. They feel compelled to introduce job sharing to others because of how “common it is for incredibly ambitious, talented, driven women to leave the workforce after a period of leave if flexible working options are not accommodated at their workplace.”
Businesses need to start adapting to changes in the workplace and accommodate the requirements of their workers. After all, workers are the greatest asset of any business – as Hannah and Rachel rightfully point out.
The benefits of job sharing
Hannah and Rachel say that “for employers, attracting, developing, and retaining talented individuals who may not be able or wish to work in the classic 40-hour week model is a huge benefit of job sharing. There is an untapped talent pool of those seeking flexibility who can add so much value to your business.
“A business benefits from two minds applying enthusiasm and energy to one role, two skill sets, two diverse ways of thinking, two problem-solving approaches, two unique assets with double the experience and double the network. Our tagline ‘one job, two minds’ really hammers this point home. Implementing job sharing and embedding it within company culture results in loyal, motivated, productive employees who are committed to the success of the business.
“Job sharing disrupts the cycle of being overworked and underpaid. You have the business and client continuity covered in a way that part-time work cannot achieve. Individuals attain the work-life balance we all crave, switching off wholly and completely on their home days when their job share partner takes the reins, no clogged inbox from your days off, with the benefit of continual progression from double the output that you could achieve alone. Job sharing allows for a challenging, stretching career and ultimate job satisfaction through being a unique micro-team, completely committed to shared goals and continuous learning.”
Role sharing also gives people the opportunity to improve and grow together. Sophie points out that in a role share, “individuals hold each other accountable on performance through regular communication and handovers, performing at higher individual standards.”
Obstacles against role sharing
Most organisations and individuals resist change because they get comfortable with the way things are functioning. Hannah and Rachel say that when change is enforced upon us, that’s when we understand how beneficial it can be – i.e. Covid!
“Companies query the practicalities of finding those who match one another and justifying the additional cost of a crossover day for both job share partners. Given the benefits, it is evident that investment in this area saves business recruitment costs, lost productivity costs, and loss of talent. The hurdles we come across from businesses, for us are all about the practicalities and resolvable. At The Job Share Pair, we demystify the nuts and bolts of job sharing and provide businesses with all the tools they need to make it work effectively, seamlessly, set up for long-term success.”
Training with companies
Hannah and Rachel have expertise in HR, leadership, and their job share partnership experience helps organisations and individuals understand the effectiveness of job sharing.
“Our core services include individualised and bespoke job share coaching days for job share partners and managers, complete HR Consultancy support in flexible working matters.
“In addition, any large-scale organisational design review and restructure to aid job sharing/flexible working. On a broader scale, we offer training to HR practitioners and business managers and leaders, cultural considerations, and provide the tools to welcome a flexible working culture if they are motivated to do so.
“We believe that job sharing and flexible working to be effective needs support from management and leadership and a culture that allows it to be a success. We work with organisations to review their working culture, and put programmes in place to impact and result in better outcomes. In essence, if you are interested in job-sharing under any guise, we are here to help you.”
How to become a job sharer
Sophie advises people to get to know your potential role share partner. “If you had a good discovery session, time to talk about how you might split a few role examples based on strengths and experience. And if you click with a match and would like to proceed in applying for roles together, put a Role Share Plan together with your joint proposition, joint experience, operational plan, and working principles. The next thing to do is, pitch (or apply). Once your plan is ready to go, pitch the role share working model to your stakeholders to share your own role, or apply for roles. Lastly, the interview – now that you have secured an interview, go get them!”
Role sharing provides employees with the room to continue progressing in their careers whilst focusing on other priorities. Essentially, role shares offer a breakthrough for career women as they no longer have to leave their work to fulfil other responsibilities. They can continue their careers with more flexibility and bridge the gaps in the gender pay gap.
Ayesha Mirza is a journalism intern at Yellow Eve. She is passionate about dismantling patriarchal structures and uplifting the voices of marginalised groups.