So far, we've covered ways that employers and business owners can share. But sharing can work for employees, too. Not only can employees share on the job, by sharing food, a car, or other items (see Solution 5, below); they can even share the job itself. If two people who both want to work part time join forces to handle a full-time position, that's job sharing. In a recent survey, more than a third of employers who offer flexible work approaches (such as telecommuting or part-time work) include job sharing programs.
Although it's most common in an office setting, job sharing can work for large or small employers and for all kinds of jobs. The key to making a job share work is communication. The sharers must come up with a method to keep each other updated and, just as important, to keep supervisor(s) and coworkers updated as well. If they're sharing each day—for example, one works in the morning and the other takes the afternoon—then they should try to overlap in time, so they can talk about ongoing projects and scheduling. If they don't overlap, they'll need to leave written notes or email messages for each other.
The sharing schedule should be posted where other employees can find it, whether that's on the office door or on an electronic bulletin board. Sharers should also consider whether they're willing to be contacted during off hours for questions or needs that come up in their absence. Many job sharers share one work phone number and email account so both have access to all the same information about their work.
The sharers and their supervisor also need to figure out some logistics. For example, do each of them have specific tasks, or do they simply split the time and do whatever needs to be done during their shift? How will time off and benefits work? How will they keep track of projects each has covered, for performance evaluations and accountability? It's a good idea for job sharers to plan a meeting each month, preferably with their supervisor, to discuss how the share is going.
What Job Sharing Looks Like
There are at least three types of schedules that job sharers can use:
- Two employees each work three days a week, handling two days on their own and overlapping on one day. The result is really 1.2 employees, with each employee working 60% time.
- Two employees each work two-and-a-half days per week, either alternating the fifth day week by week or each working half of that day. Each employee works half time.
- Two employees share each day, either on a regular morning-afternoon schedule or according to a schedule they work out to accommodate the needs of both sharers and management. Each employee works half time.
A job can also be shared by geography or by responsibilities. For example, two people might share a sales job that is responsible for a particular territory by each covering part of the region. Similarly, two people could share a job providing training to clients who buy the company's software by each taking half of a full client list.
Starting a Job Share
The best way to start a job share depends on your current job situation. If you have a full-time job and want to start working part time, check within your own company for potential sharing partners. If another full-time employee is considering a switch, you can talk about whether it makes sense to try to share either of your jobs, or perhaps even create a shared job that combines features of each. Of course, you'll have to talk to your supervisor(s) to find out what's possible.
If your company offers job sharing as a flexible work option, find out whether you—and your position—are eligible for sharing. Even companies that allow job sharing don't often make it available for every job. For example, it might be quite easy to share an IT position in a large department: Each sharer works half time and keeps the other posted on shared projects. However, the company might prefer to have the director of that department work full time, to make sure someone is always there to handle emergencies and supervise ongoing work.
If you're in the job market and want to find a job share to maximize the flexibility of your work life, check out the resources in Appendix A. You can look for cosharers in the same ways you look for a job: by mining your own networks, working with a coach or headhunter, and placing and answering advertisements.
Things You'll Have to Negotiate With Your Employer
In most circumstances, you'll want to find your potential job sharer before you propose the idea to your boss. Many employers have to be persuaded that job sharing really will benefit the company. Such a proposal should lay out the many benefits to employers, such as a happier and more productive work force and the advantage of having two employees who are fully competent at important jobs. It's important that you and your job sharing partner work out the details beforehand, so that your proposal can include suggestions about these important elements of your job:
- division of labor
- communication methods between cosharers
- communication methods with boss and coworkers
- salary and benefit requirements
- how performance and achievements will be measured, and
- any time limits on the job share (for example, if one of you wants to return to full time on a particular date in the future).
Appendix A includes a number of resources on jobsharing.