How to Make Job Sharing Work

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 07:40

By Leon Gettler

Simply defined, job sharing is when two professionals form a partnership to do one job. Frequently used by mothers and people who have to take care of ageing parents, the aim is to create a model that will ensure the job gets done and creating more productivity. Job sharing, however, has its challenges.

The most common problem is the “Who’s in charge?” syndrome. Unless there is clear and close coordination between the job sharers, the employees and the boss will never know exactly who’s responsible for what part of the shared job or tasks. The result: confusion, decreased productivity, and dissatisfied workers and supervisor. So how do we make job sharing work? Another problem might be resentment from employees. Regular employees — with or without justification — might accuse job sharers of working less hard because they put in fewer hours. And then there might be potential performance inequities. If, for example, one job sharer is more skilled or industrious than the other, they might begrudge that disparity — especially if the income of both parties is the same.

Amy Gallo at the Harvard Business Review says people first of all need to choose the right partner. “If you have a say in the matter, be sure to select someone with whom you can easily communicate, collaborate, and disagree. These arrangements often require difficult conversations about prioritising work, office politics, and personal matters so you want to be sure you pick someone compatible. But don’t seek out your perfect clone either. These situations work best for you — and for the company... if the job sharers have complementary skills, experience, and perspectives.”

She says people also have to decide how to divide up the work, they have to communicate all the time, whether it be face to face, or by email, or phone or Skype. It’s also critical to secure the supervisor’s support. Without that, the job share will fail. And finally, she suggests people try it out as a pilot to see if it works and tweak it if necessary.

Some more advice: have well-matched work ethics, present a consistent and united front, leave your ego at the door and celebrate results as a team and not as an individual and finally, have a detailed handover process to ensure it all happens seamlessly.

Elaine Miller & Laurie Cremona at Mission Job Share offer a range of suggestions. It’s important, they say, to make decisions with one mind. What decisions should be made together (strategic, hiring/firing, big budget expenses) and what decisions can be made by whoever’s on?

Recruitment firm Michael Page says the work needs to be clearly assigned and divided between the employees and the workload must be regularly monitored to ensure that an imbalance ins work is not occurring between the two parties. There should also be clear lines of responsibility and decision making to avoid any confusion around who takes the lead on specific tasks and the job sharers’ skill-sets and knowledge must complement each other and offer an effective combination of expertise.