Job Sharing: When Two Heads Are Better Than One

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Job sharing is not new, but it has always been more prevalent in the public sector than among private companies. Across the entire workplace, about 19% of all organizations now allow it, while the government actively promotes the practice. The CARES Act of 2020 encourages the pattern and even provides incentives to firms that divide duties on the same budget line.

Many employees became more accustomed to alternative working arrangements during the pandemic. Both companies and workers are recognizing the clear benefits for both sides. As it is not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, structures for part-time job sharing are essentially left up to the parties to sort out. They may end up with formal contracts. There is no one correct way to implement it. If the concept is new to an organization, a candidate might even propose it at the interview stage, or an employee might suggest a particular co-worker as a partner.

How to slice the pie

A shared position involves at least two people engaged on a part-time or a reduced schedule in a joint role that would otherwise be a full-time position. Normally, the time requirements are divided either by days, hours or partial days, like mornings and afternoons; the duties and responsibilities are likewise shared. The hours might not necessarily be apportioned 50/50. The two employees may work together sometimes, or they might never see each other. Often it makes sense to include at least one overlapping day, however, to unclog bottlenecks.

Shared jobs are generally organized according to one of two models. A “twin” model assigns the same tasks and responsibilities to each member. Alternatively, in an “island” model, duties are partitioned according to the relevant skill set and capabilities of each participant. The island model may generate maximum work quality. For example, between two information technology specialists, one might focus on software security, while the counterpart deals with systems analysis or supports engineering.

Salaries and benefits must be divided equitably. Clearly, if there is only one pie to slice, either the workers or the firm may have to make concessions. In an intergenerational arrangement, ideally each member brings their own strengths. For instance, the more senior side might be more experienced in the overall job function, but the junior might be more up to date and conversant with digital techniques.

Everyone can win with some give and take

Employees who crave more flexibility or are motivated by wellness as much as by compensation can benefit from sharing their workloads. Do they seek to reduce stress? It may be more practical than a standard part-time solution, especially if the job requires full attention and commitment and they have child care or family obligations. A partnership can provide added time off while reducing child care costs. They can perhaps cut back on commuting. Moreover, an officially shared position may help protect their schedules against the risk that the company might try to shoehorn a part-time role into a full-time obligation. If they are anxious about opportunities for career advancement as a part-timer, sharing may also establish the duo’s joint identity as full-fledged team members.

Employers, on the other hand, have much to gain. They can use the arrangement as a perk to retain talent or as a stepping stone for training a newer employee. In addition, if they co-train, they can be confident of coverage at least half the time when one member is on vacation or leave. It’s to be hoped both will also hold the other accountable. Ultimately, firms may save on costs by combining skills at little added expense.

The right partner

It is essential that participants build and cultivate a good working relationship with mutual trust and transparency. First, they must not be tempted to compete. They need to understand each other’s responsibilities and communicate effectively, using tools like instant messaging, regular reporting, sharing email and voicemail programs, and sharing workspace equipment and computers.

Most important are work styles and common values. They must avoid squabbles. How does each prioritize work time and projects? Their individual perspectives can enhance creativity and spark ideas, letting them celebrate triumphs together, which adds an element of interpersonal satisfaction.

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