Flexible Working

How job shares can work for both employees and employers

18 Jul 2019

Are you involved in the latest workplace revolution? Flexible and remote working might be all the rage, but there’s one workplace arrangement that doesn’t get as much exposure as it should.

Job sharing – where two or more employees share one role – is the perfect solution for anyone keen to improve their work-life balance. But while the idea has been around for decades, statistics show that just 0.4% of people work this way. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that while most of us understand the theory, how a job share works in practice is less clear.

Perhaps one of the biggest myths is that job sharing is just for lower or entry-level positions. Lawyers Maggy Pigott and Judith Killick job shared together for 23 years. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, they offered advice on how to make the arrangement work for both you and your employer:

  • Find a compatible and trusted job share partner who will complement your way of working and don’t unpick something they’ve already done!
  • Propose a trial period so you can prepare properly and prove to your managers that it works.
  • Communicate clearly and make time for handovers.
  • Keep your ego in check – it’s a joint effort after all!

A recent Timewise study shows the number of people working in part-time higher income jobs (£40,000 plus) in the UK rose by more than 10% last year.

And it’s not just the legal profession where we’re seeing job sharing take off. The insurance sector is also starting to recognise the benefits of this way of working.

Speaking to Dad Blog UK earlier this year, Sam White and Will McDonald from Aviva explained how sharing the role of Group Public Policy and Sustainability Director works for them.

“We both work three days a week, overlapping on Wednesday, and both keeping the same set days each week,” said Will. “On Wednesdays, we have about an hour of handover but otherwise we don’t duplicate so we are very rarely in the same room. We have a set of principles between us that are really useful in having a clear common understanding of how we work.”

Both men acknowledge their situation is still quite rare, but that the benefits are clear – both for the business and their own work-life balance.

“It has made a huge difference to how much time I spend with my kids and has transformed our relationship. I love it,” said Will.

“We are often told by colleagues they are surprised how smoothly it works. For our teams, we did a secret survey after about a year. We got 95% of the team saying it was working really well,” added Sam.

Job shares at Stopgap

Here at Stopgap, we’re great advocates of job sharing. Currently sharing a post, we have:

Jane and Zoe - Who work on charities, government and education sectors, primarily on freelance roles. 

Sibylle and Kelly - Who work on charity, education, healthcare, trade and membership bodies and public sector.

Lee and Kelly - Who work on consumer marketing roles across Entertainment, Media, Consumer Publishing & Travel.

Jackie and Moira - Who recruit for CMO, VP Marketing and Marketing Director roles in the services sector, especially technology (including adtech, edtech, fintech), FS, NFP, business intelligence, professional and business services.

Kate and Kelly - Who manage freelance and perm roles from AE to GAD for a wide range of agencies - large and small, privately owned and international, digital and integrated

So what is their advice to employers thinking of introducing this option? Here’s what they said:

  • Employees who enjoy a good work/life balance are happier overall.
  • Job sharers are usually extra diligent and super-productive on the days they do work, which helps to reduce presenteeism.
  • In a climate of modest pay rises and the demise of decent pensions, job sharing can help companies attract and retain great staff.

Sibylle believes there is still a reluctance from employers to consider job shares for their roles, but in her view, that is a short-sighted and outdated mindset.

And here's some advice for those going into a job share - how to get the best out of it.

  • Mutual trust
  • Mutual respect
  • Constant and detailed communication
  • It's also important to set realistic expectations from each other.  There are days that don't go to plan and you need to understand that some parts of the job won't get done that day. 
  • It's important to truly believe you are 'one person' so successes and failures are shared.  You are each other's safety net and helping hand

"Views are starting to change, but there is still a need for a change in mindset across many industries and employers to accept job shares. There is often the wrong impression that there will be a lower level of productivity and quality from a job share versus a single candidate. But in reality, you will often find a greater level of seniority available, two sets of experience to draw on and greater commitment during the working day. Would you rather have a single candidate who is less competent in a role, or two people in a job share who perfectly match your requirements and are brilliant at their job?" 

Want to learn more about job sharing and how it could work for you? Talk to the team at Stopgap today and let us share our experience.

Would you rather have a single candidate who is less competent in a role, or two people in a job share who perfectly match your requirements and are brilliant at their job?
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