How to make a job share work
Job sharing means change. A change to the way that you have operated previously and a change to the business. In times of change we need to plan. What are the practicalities? What does the day to day look like? Who will lead on what? How will we handover? How do we manage performance? How do you ensure that you have coverage across all work and client interactions? The list of unknowns is endless. At The Job Share Pair, we demystify the nuts and bolts of job sharing and provide you with all the tools you need to make it work. Having worked as job sharers ourselves at Board level as HR Directors, we understand the day to day logistics of how to manage this transition, plan for various eventualities and set you up for success. So first things first. How do you make a job share work?
Communication & Handover
Any job share couple will stress that without clear, open communication and watertight handovers, the job sharing arrangement will be ineffective and vulnerable to criticism. Pre-agree your preferred way of managing your handover. What suits you both best? Is a written list for you or do you prefer a phone call? For us, after some trial and error and evolution, it was both.
We share a workbook (on Microsoft OneNote) where we take notes of meetings, take notes around client activity and team workload, then use this as a basis to provide our handover. We work through our handover on a voice note to really sense the tone of the week as well as the facts. We give an overview of the week, sharing immediate “need to know”s, information from any key meetings, project/case updates, and any action and handover details. Importantly we talk about how we feel the week has gone, any achievements or concerns and list out things we need to discuss during our crossover time.
We really advocate for a crossover day where possible. Ideally strategic or team meetings take place on this day in order for a job share couple to both benefit and provide input. Your crossover time is limited and therefore needs to be protected. It is critical to carve out (at a minimum) 2 hours together to work through strategic priorities, align goals, brainstorm and review and refine work that would benefit from two sets of eyes. Our time is action focussed. We see it as an opportunity to move things forward by the time we next see each other. We work hard to be able to demonstrate movements on key areas. Though crossover time does amount to additional expense for a company we see it as a necessity to operating truly effectively. An employer benefits from two minds, two problem solvers, two ways of thinking, two perspectives, two sets of energy without a midweek lull, two people dedicated to making things happen (for themselves and their partner). A crossover day means that a job share operates truly as designed, leaving your home days free from work worries. Without it, the likelihood of needing check-ins on your home days would be high.
Set them. Agree them. Know them. Stick to them. Uphold them for each other.
A key to our success as a job share partnership is setting, understanding and respecting each other’s boundaries. Awareness of boundaries allow us to contribute fully and appreciate each other’s drivers, which is so important to a seamless working relationship. Setting boundaries preserves your own value set, reinforcing the reason as to why working flexibly is important to you. Picking up the children early? Attending your favourite spinning class? Dinner with the lads? Everyone’s lives and priorities are unique to them and this flexibility to appeal to all is to be celebrated. Burnout is not.
Clear boundaries ensure for business continuity. People know when you are accessible and when you are not. Blurring these lines creates confusion – absolutely to be avoided when working in a job share. Responsibility for action lies with the individual working that day or to manage the issue on a robust and detailed handover.
Not adhering to your boundaries means your arrangement will not be sustainable. This situation no longer meets your need for flexibility versus the financial impact of working a shorter week.
The key message? When you both work to cover a full time role - it is ok to have non-negotiables! Set them, communicate them and keep to them.
One of our key principles is operating seamlessly as one. Our home days should always be work free. Upsetting this balance interferes with the dynamic of the job share, confuses the business, undermines the relationship and can result in relationship breakdown. Your job share partner is well equipped and experienced to handle all that may arise, and if not? They have your number.
We over-communicate, present a united front at all times, understand our joint and individual responsibilities, market ourselves as one and are consistent in our messaging and language (We. Us. Our.).
From the outside, we are one.
Acceptance of a job share proposal comes down to line manager support. This is crucial. Here are some tips if you are reviewing a request to job share as a line manager:
1) Query your unconscious bias. What do you notice? Do you have evidence to validate your concerns? Genuine business reasons? Does anything feel uncomfortable when you sit with your concerns? Challenge yourself by discussing this with a trusted other and debate it out.
2) If the proposal is put forward by an existing employee, they are looking for a change. Consider the loss to the business should the employee decide that they can no longer operate in their current pattern. Consider the loss of knowledge, the experience, the client relationships, the network they have across the business. The recruitment cost to rehire. The abundance of skills required to succeed in the role. The time (and money) it takes to upskill.
3) Be open minded. What is the risk to the business of giving the proposal a try? Flexible working regimes are protected by trial periods before they become permanent changes to contract. Issues with the arrangement should appear in that time (and trial periods can be extended if uncertain). Trial periods provide individuals and companies with protection to determine whether it is a long term solution. What is stopping you from giving it a go?
4) If the proposal is accepted, support the employees in finding their groove. Undertake 30 minute joint 1:1s to cover operational matters in a role and 15 minute individual 1:1s to manage personal goals and objectives. Job sharing is a simple concept but can be complex in practice if not well planned or thought through.
5) Get support! We offer bespoke coaching and consultancy services, using our combined 25 years of corporate HR experience and our practical understanding as senior job sharers ourselves. Follow @thejobsharepair on Instagram for general best practice to make a job share effective or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your bespoke needs.
Our mission and passion is to make job sharing accessible for all. We hope that this introduction to job sharing has opened your eyes to considering its multiple benefits to business, clients, individuals and our communities.