Job sharing is like a marriage (without the date nights). The two people involved need to work at it to make sure both are contributing and committed. There will probably be tough times, but when done well, it can be one of the best experiences, and provide you with real flexibility and a perfect option for managing family and career.
If you’re thinking about taking the plunge and popping the question—will you share a job with me?—here’s our list for what you need to make it work:
Open, transparent and honest communication is critical. Work really hard on your communication and handover so that no duplication is required by anyone. A job-share should function as smoothly as if only one person is filling the position. You and your partner must communicate as if you share one brain, and each job-share partner should be able to pick up all responsibilities and actions when the other is absent. That means setting up systems that make it quick and easy for you to hand off projects to each other. The other person should be able to easily find the answer to questions and understand the work you have completed.
Appreciate your differences
Two sets of experiences and skills are coming together in one role, so for job sharing to work, there needs to be a complementary match of both. Your short-term career goals, values and work ethics must also be aligned. It’s important to identify each partner’s strength areas so that these can be maximised and optimised, and likewise, awareness of development areas will enable knowledge sharing and learning within the partnership. With all job-share relationships, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.
Trust your partner
This will create a functional partnership and make possible the advantages of job sharing on both a personal and an organisational level. You should trust that any issues that arise when you are out of the office will be handled in a professional and thorough manner. You must be confident that your job will be performed equally well whether it’s your day or theirs. Successful job sharers make a commitment to being consistent to everyone outside of the partnership: colleagues, team, manager, clients, and suppliers, because this is crucial for the development of trust.
Always provide a united front
As one unit, it’s important to always publicly support your job-share partner. While you share in the successes of the job-share, you must also share in the mistakes, and develop and present a united front irrespective of differences. To avoid being in a situation where you and your partner have differing views, it’s important to nut out any differences of opinion. What this means is that you will often reach an outcome, perhaps even better than you would have had as a solo person, simply because of the benefit of two heads problem solving.
Regular review and feedback
Set up regular reviews with your partner to check in about how the partnership is working, and allow you the opportunity to resolve any tensions before they escalate. Likewise, seek regular feedback from team members, your manager and important stakeholders so you can adjust accordingly.
Job sharing provides a great opportunity to work with a fabulous person, so make the most of it!
As in any relationship, job sharing undoubtedly involves compromise, and anyone embarking on this strategy must be prepared to give a little to create the balance they want to achieve. There is work involved at the outset in setting up a job-share successfully, and regular review is needed. But most job sharers agree that the outcome is definitely worth it.
Written by Endi Frydman. Endi Frydman has over 15 years’ experience in executive recruitment and search, coupled with experience running her own executive coaching business.