You’ve heard of full-time and part-time work, but have you heard of job sharing? It is a flexible working arrangement that allows two employees to work part-time doing the same job as each other, with the same responsibilities that usually only one person would be doing full-time. This can involve them either working some of the week together or having entirely different shifts where they work different hours or different days, and they are both equally responsible for the whole job. This is sometimes used interchangeably with ‘job split’. However, a job split (also known as the islands model) is when two people divide the tasks required of one job role, so their responsibilities don’t overlap.
Job shares can help greatly to achieve a good work-life balance and allow flexibility for women with parenting responsibilities. They can also be more beneficial than part-time roles as often people in part-time roles, that aren’t job shares, are much less likely to be promoted and progress up the pay scale so this is a good alternative where you can continue to progress but with less hours. They can also be a great option for women as they enable them to keep their senior positions that they usually wouldn’t be able to after a career break after having children.
Job sharing can have benefits and limitations for both the employee and the employer, which we are going to explore.
For many women, job sharing can have lots of benefits. For instance, mothers who are responsible for looking after children at home can fit their work life around school drop offs and childcare. This can also help with mental well-being, work-life balance and also helps reduce childcare costs.
With the tech industry rapidly developing, job sharing also a great way to ensure women can maintain their skills in a part-time role, whilst still having time off. This is significant as research has shown that on average, women’s earnings drop by around 4-5% per child because they have had to take time out of work, increasing the gender pay gap. This would also mean they miss out on learning new skills as the field changes and new software, or techniques are used and, therefore, will struggle to progress in their careers. This is also known as the motherhood penalty. This in turn, potentially makes it harder to find a job when recent mothers are ready to work again, which will probably make it more likely that they’ll end up leaving the tech industry, as 56% of women leave the tech industry 10-20 years into their careers. This is double the rate of men.
Job sharing can also be particularly beneficial for people who have reached a senior level in their career, but have taken a career break. In a standard job role, they would potentially return to a lower level position when returning to work, as they could be perceived to be out of touch with skills & knowledge. A job share can help them remain at their previous level, whilst also letting them keep a foot in the door with employers. It can also be good for someone who might be anxious when returning to work, as it’s a way to work closely with someone else to get up to speed with the role.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed when working a full-time job, looking after a family, a house and trying to still have time to yourself. It can also make you feel like you’re not doing a good enough job both at work and at home. This is supported by studies from Forbes which have shown that approximately 85% of employees consider that negative effects on their private life is due to mental health problems at work. Therefore, having more free time outside of work where you can attend to your other responsibilities and/or have more leisure time will help your overall wellbeing and mental health. In turn, this will allow you to bring your best self to work, increasing motivation and job satisfaction.
With research showing as many as 73% of employees have experienced symptoms of menopause, having job sharing may be greatly beneficial to people going through this time of life. Some of the most common symptoms are mood changes, anxiety, depression, memory loss, hot flashes, and panic attacks. 55% of respondents were also able to recall a time when they couldn’t go to work due to their symptoms and 20% have considered leaving work because of it. In turn, this can have a negative impact on someone’s well-being. However, if they don’t need to work full time and someone is able to do the same job as them if they must be off work, it can help reduce stress and will mean the work will still be done.
If you both have a schedule that overlaps, it also helps you build rapport with a colleague and make it feel less isolating. This can be particularly important if the workplace is male-dominated, and two women have the shared job roles.
Whilst job sharing can have many benefits for the employee, it can also be great for the employer. For example, it means you have two people’s skills and experience and can potentially teach each other new things and problem-solve together. Therefore, they can upskill each other, bringing more knowledge to the company without having to pay for training sessions. This is also good if someone is off sick, on annual leave, or on maternity/paternity leave as the other person can pick up their jobs without needing to be trained in their role. This can be very beneficial when working with clients as they won’t notice a delay in work being done.
Sharing a job can also lower the risk of burnout because the employee will have time off for doing other things in their days off, helping work-life balance. This can be particularly important in tech because as many as 2 in 5 IT professionals are at high risk of burnout, and global studies have found that as many as 42% of women were consistently burnt out at work, compared to 35% of men. Some common causes of workplace burnout are poor work-life balance, work overload, and too many working hours. In theory, a job share should help with all these factors, however, another cause of burnout can be unclear job descriptions, showing the importance of good communication in these roles so it is clear what each person is the job share should be doing.
Helping to reduce burnout and improve wellbeing means that you are more likely to retain your staff, reduce turnover and reduce absences. Retaining talent will also save the money it costs to hire and train.
Job sharing can help achieve a diverse team, particularly increasing the number of women in the team as it can be ideal for those looking after children. This is great for tech companies as there is currently a low percentage of women in technology (26%). Having a diverse company will help attract more talent to the organisation as it will show it is inclusive and a family-friendly place to work. Another potentially small group it helps to increase is in older people that don’t want to work full time.
Whilst there are many benefits for both the employer and employee, there are also limitations to look out for. For instance, everyone involved in the job share needs to make sure they are very organised otherwise it can lead to jobs not being completed if both people think the other is doing it. Alternatively, it can lead to jobs being done twice if they don’t communicate who is going to be doing it. This is a reason why having a schedule overlap can be the best way to approach a job share as you can do a handover which includes letting each other know what you did that day and what is still left to do.
Moreover, it is important the manager of the two job sharers has a way of keeping a track of who has completed what work, so that it doesn’t lead to one always doing more than the other which could cause friction. A way of tracking this might be asking both to keep a note of what work they’ve done each day or having separate logins that shows who has completed what work.
It is also important that both parties are good team workers, can take responsibility, and are flexible. If they are unable to work as a team, it is likely they would be able to work together on a job share. It is also imperative that if they are in positions where they manage people in lower roles than them, that it is established if they are equal managers, or one has more authority over the other. Otherwise, this can lead to tension between the two and uncertainty to those they are meant to be managing. Another problem that can occur if those they are in charge of favour one over the other, leading to one doing more work or training than the other.
Another factor for the employer to consider is that if one person in the job share decides to leave, it can make it difficult to recruit for their job as not everyone will want to do a shared role. This might mean it has to be changed to being a full-time role for one person making it unlikely the current staff member will stay in the job if they want to continue being part-time. On the other hand, they may find someone to fill a job share role, but finding two people who work well together, which is essential for a job share, might be challenging.
In addition, having two people in the same role is likely to require the company to buy two sets of equipment (e.g. laptops) which can end up being costly. If they will be working at the same time and in the office, it will also mean you need to have two workspaces which might be difficult if the office is small.
It might also require training two people instead of one, which might take up one person’s time twice or cost more if the company pays external trainers. However, if they both start at the same time, it might be that they can be trained together, or one might be able to teach the other if they start at different times. Furthermore, it will the company to create two sets of contracts and to work out the schedules, unnecessary for one full-time worker.
Overall, there can be many benefits to companies having job share roles. However, it is also important to know the limitations before hiring for these roles.
Find out more about how employers can help women return to tech here.