Is Job Sharing Right For Your Organization?

by | Mar 18, 2013 | Business Strategies

Sharing jobs by splitting one post between two people originated some fifty years ago when nurses and teachers – overwhelmingly women’s professions – shared jobs to better balance work and family life.

Flexible work arrangements are trickier today. Splitting a teacher’s class load or a nurse’s shift hours is simpler than sharing creative processes, client files, or meeting details. But studies show that an overwhelming majority of professionals support job sharing. Splitting a job can take more work. If done right, however, the benefits can pay off for both employers and employees.

“After compensation, the most important contributors to work satisfaction for 30- to 40-year-old exempt women are work/life balance and flexible working opportunities, according to the “New Career Paradigm” study by The American Business Collaboration,” notes the Society of Human Resource Managers.

A boss can deny work-life or family issues exist, and demand that employees put work above all. But when an employee decides that work is not more important than their children, or tires of battling inflexible schedules, it is the employer who can lose by needing to hire someone new, train them, potentially lose business – and risk having it happen all over again.

Job shares can impact not just parents, but those caring for older relatives as well. As the Canadian Globe and Mail noted last fall, job shares can allow for transitions. “Someone returning from parental leave, say, could share a position with an older worker scaling back hours before retirement,” the paper noted.

Allowing employers to share one position requires a workplace mindset overhaul. Sometimes philosophical changes can be the hardest to implement. Professors at Grand Valley University found that “problems for the employer are generally caused by the negative attitudes of managers” more than anything else, according to a study published in the Seidman Business Review in 2003.

Some facets of job shares require more work from all parties – more communication to make sure handoffs run smoothly, more trust that the both partners will complete their tasks, and more paperwork, as two people must submit information for a position that previously needed only one set of documents. Personalities become even more key than in a typical office environment, especially in a position where the sharers might both need to speak to the same clients, or continue the same creative work.

Employees reducing their hours will inevitably see less pay and fewer benefits. They may not advance as quickly in their careers as full-time counterparts. However, for some employees, especially parents with small children, the choice is not full-time or part-time, but part-time or not at all. In that case, sharing becomes the overwhelmingly preferable choice.

For employers, the benefits are retaining workers, and their training and institutional knowledge, that might otherwise be lost. Flexibility works both ways – an employer might have wanted to cut a position back to 30 hours, or perhaps wanted to increase the hours but not have enough work or money to create another position. Two workers sharing a job might be willing to work 15-hour weeks instead of 20, or put in 25 hours each, cutting their workload significantly while the employer gains 10 hours a week.

Beyond the money and the hours is a less tangible, but perhaps even more valuable benefit – morale. Studies show that job sharers are overwhelmingly more excited about their jobs. They suffer less burnout, focus better for the few hours they remain at work, appreciate having a supportive boss – and overall submit better job performance.

Rich Sheridan, the CEO of Menlo Innovations, a Michigan software developer, told MSN’s Business on Main site that “I think we have greater productivity because each person is fresh with ideas instead of tired out by being on the job alone all week.”

Finding the right person to share with, and the right position in the right office, can be tricky, but reporters are rife with stories of how such pairings can work out right. Advertising salesperson Jennifer Turano shared her successful job splitting story with the New York Times.

Planning to job share entails more than finding the right person, and perhaps additional human resources paperwork. Maintaining a workflow supportive of a mid-week handoff remains a key to success. Process is key, the Modern Business Analyst writes, and offers some specific examples of how to create a smooth job share workflow.​​​​