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Job sharing: are two heads better than one?

Posted on 21/02/2019 by Matt Adams

Two workers - job share

Job sharing is a term coined in the 1960s to describe a form of flexible working where two employees share the responsibilities and duties of one full time job. While most job shares involve a three day week for both parties (often with one crossover day), there are many other patterns, including splitting days or alternate weeks. Pay, benefits and holiday leave are split on a pro-rata basis between the two employees.

While there are no official statistics on the number of job shares in the UK, anecdotal evidence suggests these roles are becoming increasingly widespread, even at senior levels. So why are employers increasingly willing to look at job sharing and how can you make it more in your organisation?

The benefits of job sharing

Reduce staff turnover

Probably the most important benefit of job shares for employers is the retention of valued members of staff. As their personal circumstances change, employees may need reduced hours to achieve a better work-life balance and offering them job shares reduces expensive employee turnover, which is particularly important in senior roles. Job sharing can also allow staff time to train or up skill, enable them to build a portfolio career or ‘side hustle’ or let them volunteer more of their time. In addition, when times are hard for an organisation, can be a way of keeping two people partially employed instead of having to let one go.

Increase productivity

There’s been a great deal of research showing the working fewer hours makes employees more productive. Where full-time employees can start flagging by Friday, those working 2 or 3 days will often maintain the energy and creativity for high performance. Two people sharing a job can often achieve more than one person working full time, giving your organisation more for its money.

Combining the skills and experience of two people can also lead to better work outputs, as you have a wider range of abilities to handle situations at work. Both partners can also use their different strengths to coach one another and learn from each other. And as job sharers are accountable to each other, as well as the organisation, they are going to work harder to avoid letting their partner down.

Job share roles are also less likely to suffer due to absences. Emergency cover for illness or family emergencies is easier when there’s a partner available to fill in, and both employees can cover each other’s holiday leave.

Redress gender pay issues

Offering job shares can help organisations address any gender pay gap issues. Even though women outnumber men in the third sector, there is still a gender pay gap of 8%, rising to 12.25% for the top 10 charity brands. This is likely to be at least partly due to a lack of women in the more senior roles. Job sharing opportunities make it easier for female employees who want to work flexibly to move up the career ladder, right up to CEO.

Women who want to continue developing their career while working flexibly often struggle to find the roles at the right level and are forced to move sideways or accept less senior positions. Offering job sharing opportunities is a way to address this problem while still having continuous cover for a senior role.

Improve employer branding

With unemployment low but vacancies remaining high, the competition for the best employees is becoming fiercer than ever. Offering job sharing options can help to give you the edge, as it opens up a much wider pool of potential candidates. And when you recruit job sharers, they are generally more loyal and likely to stay with the organisation longer.

Offering job sharing also helps to boost your employer brand overall, as even those not interested in job shares will perceive an organisation will to offer more flexible working options as a good place to work.

How to make it work

Job sharing requires a genuine commitment from both the employer and the sharing employees to make it work well. Usually, job sharers have worked with one another in the past and have a compatible working style, but ultimately, it’s down to the employer to make sure the arrangement works.

The most important thing is to set clear guidelines for who is responsible for what. Should the job sharers split responsibilities or share them? If they manage people, which one should they report to? Should they have joint or separate objectives and appraisals? Spending time clarifying these points and then communicating them to the rest of the team can help to head off any problems in the future.

It’s also important for employers to consider any cost implications of job sharing. Most job shares involve a crossover day, so may cost an organisation more than a full time role (although they do tend to get more in terms of productivity). You also need to decide if you are going to provide each job share partner with full benefits or pro-rata these in some way.

Help us find out more

Does your organisation employ anyone on a job sharing basis? Would you consider offering job sharing in the future? The TPP Fundraising and Development team is currently conducting a survey to find out how widespread job sharing is in the fundraising world.

Fill out our 2-minute survey here and we’ll let you know once the results are out.