With an increasing desire for flexible working, from both the employer and employee side, there is a growing interest in the concept of job sharing, which is when a full-time job is split into two and performed by two people.
However, job sharing is far from the norm and there is a general reluctance by organizations to use job sharing as there is a perception that job shares are relatively cumbersome to setup, maintain and use. This view may in some sense be justified since there are arguably higher administrative costs with job sharing, because you will need to double up on hiring, training time and HR admin. There may also be an additional coordination and communication burden.
But, even though there are drawbacks of job sharing versus one full-time performer, it would be premature to suggest that job shares don’t work. For example, studies show that flexible working practices make a business more attractive to talent, meaning that a firm may be able to attract and retain higher quality talent than it would have without offering job sharing.
Another positive aspect is that there is greater redundancy, flexibility and built in holiday and sickness cover, meaning you could experience greater business continuity with a job share. For example, job sharers can potentially cover seamlessly for each other when one is sick or on holiday.
Another perk is that there is an increased ability to ramp up hours without a detrimental impact on productivity. For example, workers experience a decrease in productivity of about 50 percent after working more than 40 hours a week, and if this is done on a sustained basis you could see exhaustion and increased sickness absence as a result. Job sharers give your organization the ability to ramp up to 50 or 60 hours a week to meet demand without the corresponding decline in productivity that you are likely to see with one full-time working equivalent.
So, although there are drawbacks, there are plenty of advantages associated with job sharing which shows that if implemented well, job sharing can work. But, in order for it work, it’s not something you should fall into; a job sharing program should be well planned and there are three areas to carefully consider.
1. Choose your job share model carefully. There are two main types of job share models. The first is the Twins Model (where they share all responsibilities on different days), and this provides continuous client coverage and is more suitable for client intensive/facing roles.
The other model is called the Islands Model, which is a job split where job responsibilities are divided up between each sharer. Since one job sharer can’t necessarily do the other’s role, there is reduced client coverage, which means that this may not work so well in client facing roles. However, each job sharer can become more specialized and more effective in their area. It can make it easier to hire as the skill requirements are likely to be less demanding than in the twin model.
2. Make sure that there is a detailed handover process, which means that at the beginning/end of each shift, the leaving person should document and pass over all issues to the incoming job sharer to ensure effective business continuity between each job sharer’s shift. This is a crucial element to ensure that job sharing works.
3. Make the job sharers responsible for continuity of service. It’s becoming clear that the most challenging job share roles are client facing roles, where a potential loss of continuity can create a relatively disjointed and discontinuous outward facing service for users and clients, which is inferior to that of a single continuous worker. So, make sure your job sharers are not just responsible for their own job, but are also responsible for providing a continuous, seamless client-centered service to their users.
So, as long as the right conditions are laid down, yes job shares can and do work. But in truth, the more client intensive the role is, the more challenging it will be to make it work.