It’s a truth universally acknowledged that two heads are better than one. The concept of ‘job sharing’, where two individuals split the responsibilities of one role between themselves (in order to be able to each fulfill a part-time role, rather than both doing two separate full-time roles), is the solution to a few niggling problems: juggling parenting and careers, desire for more flexibility and career burnout can all be eased with a job sharing solution. Not to mention the fact that having two brains on one project is where innovation really can bloom. Thanks to three trailblazing job sharers, we now know how to tackle the division: here are three key things you should ensure if you’re considering job sharing.
JOB SHARING MUST-KNOW #1: 1+1=3
SARAH RYAN + ROWENA DITZELL – Marketing Director, Snacking, Campbell Arnott’s
Sarah and Rowen were both working at Coca-Cola Australia in brand marketing in 2002, and were due to go on maternity leave at around the same time. Their marketing director was incredibly supportive and suggested a job share. Following their initial job share in October 2003, they’ve taken the concept to two additional companies (Unilever Australasia and Campbell Arnott’s), in eight different roles.
ROWENA: From time to time we have come across a colleague or manager who has found the concept of job share challenging and was not prepared to embrace it. These situations have been rare but quite difficult.
SARAH: We talk often together about our careers – how we are each feeling in our current roles, what we see for ourselves next. Luckily, we have always been very aligned around what we wanted. We have even both been happy to move companies together twice. Each time, we interviewed together, which was interesting for us and for the interviewers!
ROWENA: We work two and a half days each. We have half a day each week together in the office to do our detailed handovers, planning and alignment and critical team meetings. We have a shared set of KPIs, so this ensures we are fully united always in achieving the same outcomes.
SARAH: In more senior roles, the decision-making and project contact is daily, so we make sure we are up-to date on everything. This means more work outside of our official work times to communicate updates to each other and to check emails and review documents.
SARAH: As job-sharers we’ve been able to maintain roles at work that challenged us and that have allowed us to continue to progress our careers. This progression may not have been possible if we were both working separately part-time.
JOB SHARING MUST-KNOW #2: HAVING THE RIGHT PARTNER IS KEY
LISA TUFFS + SARAH GOSS – Practice Lead – Industry & Society, Ericsson South East Asia and Oceania
Job sharing since 2011, Sarah had just returned from 12 months maternity leave after having her first child. At the time, Lisa was managing the strategy function working three days per week, then there was a global re-organisation and was asked to perform this new role. Here’s how they went about tackling the problem:
LISA: I attempted to do it part-time for six months, but I was essentially working five days and getting paid to do three. I felt that returning full-time, resigning or job-sharing were the only options, so I asked the company to consider the job share as I knew Sarah was returning from her maternity leave. Ericsson wanted to retain both of us, so they agreed to the job share arrangement which we structured and proposed.
SARAH: We each work three consecutive days a week, with Tuesday being our overlap day. In practice, we effectively operate ‘as one’. Until recently, we shared the same workload and worked interchangeably based on our days in the office. As our role is broadening, we are now finding for certain responsibilities that it’s more effective to divide them up and allocate them between us.
LISA: There were initial reservations about the set-up as traditionally, senior management roles were not considered flexible enough to be managed on a shared part-time basis.
SARAH: We’ve established clear ways of working between us and in the way we work with others, both internally and externally. We have to make it seamless for colleagues and for those we work with outside Ericsson. It is absolutely critical that we ensure we ‘are one’ in terms of how people experience working with us.
LISA: We can arrange to be in two places at once if we need to be, such as when we have a meeting clash. Jobsharing also means we have inbuilt capacity for back-filling and covering periods of leave.
SARAH: Support from leaders is also critical to the success of our job-sharing arrangement. If we didn’t have our line managers’ support in particular, it simply wouldn’t work.
LISA: To be an effective job-sharer, you need communication, communication, communication! It’s crucial that the individuals working together in the job share can operate as an effective team because ultimately you are accountable to each other for your collective performance.
JOB SHARING MUST-KNOW #3: COMMUNICATION SHOULD BE TRANSPARENT
ESTELLE BENFIELD + SAMANTHA LLOYD FRANCIS – Senior Designer, Plum Collections
Estelle and Samantha have been working as a team at Plum for four years, following time off to raise children. (The pair has six between them, aged from five to 17)
SAMANTHA: As senior designers, we each work three or four days plus the occasional day if work demands it. We are always there if we’re needed.
ESTELLE: We were friends before we started working together, having met working at a design business 15 years before that. This is a definite bonus as we have more tolerance due to our friendship, as well as complete faith in the other person’s skills, capabilities and decision-making.
SAMANTHA: We have to stay on top of everything the other is doing. However as a team we don’t always agree with each other, and have been known to have robust discussions in order to come up with the best solution.
SAMANTHA: Our employer gets to benefit from a wealth of design and professional experience between us – Estelle worked as a textile designer for many years and I worked as a womenswear designer for several major brands. As baby and childrenswear designing mums, we are in tune with the needs of our customers. And when it comes to the design process, two heads are always better than one.
ESTELLE: Excellent communication skills are a must (we discuss our progress every day as well as copy each other on all emails) as well as tolerance, respect, flexibility and a sense of humour. The bottom line however is that between us we always ensure we get the job done at the end of the day.
SAMANTHA: Ensure you know that you’ll be on the same page in every respect. You need to have total faith in them and that they will not let you down – you bat for the same team.