Productive flexibility: Job sharing delivers for employers, staff, and clients
Part-time and casual roles have played a consistent role in Australia’s employment landscape, adding flexibility and helping a range of demographics fit employment around their personal and preferred circumstances. Since the pandemic, working from home has become normalised, while the four-day work week is being trialled in some cities worldwide, including here in Australia.
An often-overlooked alternative to full-time employment is job sharing. Ideally, job sharing is not meshing two part-time roles together but a sincere split of one role between two people. For employers, it can deliver increased productivity and creativity from two people working optimally, whilst providing flexibility and high job-satisfaction for employees.
There are many benefits to a job share arrangement for employers, including:
- Productivity increases: Job sharers bring two sets of experience when compared to one sole employee. Personal leave is one of the largest disruptors to business, but if both job-sharers don’t take leave at the same time, the role will continue to function. If one person leaves the organisation, skill and knowledge is retained and the role delivery continues.
- Retention: With Australia experiencing record low unemployment rates, businesses are desperate to retain staff and minimise hiring costs. Job sharing can improve retention as it allows both career-driven achievements and work-life balance with job sharers appreciating the flexibility.
- Talent acquisition: By advocating a flexible working environment, a business can attract additional talent who may not have considered the workplace previously.
Dividing a role whilst maintaining a singular role’s deliverables can be met with hesitation by employers. Team management, additional salary, training, and low confidence in the ability of two people to deliver one person’s job are often cited. To ensure all deliverables are met, communication between the job sharers and other stakeholders is key, while availability on non-work days can ensure any escalated issues are responded to appropriately and assist employers during peak times.
Employers offering a job share must consider:
- Clearly defining the role: Despite any job sharer’s working relationship with the other, ensure clarity on the expectations of the role and how it will be divided. Contractual issues including issues such as how public holidays, overtime, and leave will be awarded must be clear.
- Assisting managers: The direct management of the job sharers is a key role. This person will need support, especially when addressing performance management and identifying any blocks to the working relationship.
- Company-wide communication: If job sharing is new to the organisation, other team members may be wary. Ensuring staff are aware of the role, why job sharing will be occurring, the benefits to the business, and clarify reporting structures will help staff adapt to the new structure.
- Regular reviews: Regularly review and revise the job-sharing arrangement with the job sharers, their managers, and the wider team to ensure the job share is working.
The case study below, featuring two long-term job sharers, Jen Manuel and Kate Downing, outlines their tips to make job sharing work for both employers and employees.
Case Study: Jen Manuel and Kate Downing
Jen and Kate commenced their first job-sharing arrangement in 2018. “It was a first for our employer at the time, and we were determined to not only make it work, but to prove that actually it could be even more valuable to an employer than having one person in a role,” says Kate. In 2019, they decided to look for new opportunities – together. “We knew this wouldn’t be easy but we developed a fairly persuasive argument backed by the proof of what we had delivered,” said Jen. They then secured a second job share opportunity, and now have a proven formula of job sharing that has delivered value to two different organisations for over four years.
Making job sharing work
Jen and Kate’s personal attributes strengthen their ability to job share. Both have a high level of job motivation, are proactive and curious by nature, have strong decision-making skills, and take initiative. “We are extremely organised individuals who don’t require a lot of guidance. Our project management skills, attention to detail, and collaborative working style have enabled us to be so successful over the past four years,” said Kate.
The duo approaches a job share role with communication at the heart of everything to ensure continuity, service, and support for their teams and all stakeholders. “We find this delivers confidence within the business in our joint ability to deliver,” said Jen, who together with Kate, has been awarded several awards in their roles.
Jen and Kate prefer to share a week with three days each instead of a three-day/two-day split. This job share arrangement allows for a crossover day each week to ensure flawless continuation and alignment on strategic approaches. “Communicating with each other, the greater team and external agencies is key to this approach being successful,” said Kate. “We ensure that we schedule any goal-setting, development, and strategy meetings on a shared day where we are both in attendance,” said Kate. “In our most recent role, we managed team meetings and WIPs with individuals jointly and checked in regularly with our team.”
Both understand there are times when there are additional work demands and they always endeavour to be flexible to meet business needs. “Working in a shared role, flexibility is key, and we have both previously moved working days to ensure we attend business critical workshops and off-site meetings where required,” said Jen. “During periods of increased workload, we have each been able to offer the business additional work days.”
A job-sharing approach can be met with hesitation by potential employers, but Jen and Kate’s experience has demonstrated otherwise. “We appreciate that this arrangement requires an increased investment by an organisation, however we prove the much higher value that can be provided by this approach,” said Kate. A job-share role can also be presented as a positive by employers to clients and customers. In their first job share, Jen and Kate were responsible for all marketing strategy and execution with the company’s top client. The pair were nominated to take on this role partially due to the unique offering they could provide by having two senior marketing managers working on the account. “During this time, we continually checked in with key stakeholders at varying levels, to ensure the customer was happy with our level of service and not experiencing any barriers due to the working arrangement,” said Kate. “Feedback in all cases was extremely positive, due in most part to our seamless and meticulous handovers and alignment on all strategies and approaches.”
Accountability and ownership increases significantly when job-sharing, especially when both have a professional working relationship. “We endeavour to ensure the other is set up for success on the days they are working,” said Jen. “Essentially, we always strive to be the best for each other.”