Job sharing is a flexible work option in which two or possibly more employees share a single job. For example, one person may work in a certain position Monday and Tuesday, and a second person may occupy that same position Thursday and Friday. The two people may both work on Wednesday and use that time to update each other on the current status of the various projects on which they collaborate. A variety of other arrangements are possible as well.
Job sharing is a somewhat controversial alternative to telecommuting, flexible working hours, compressed work weeks, and other arrangements used by small businesses looking to offer their employees a bit more flexibility while maintaining productivity. It is aimed at the small number of employees in the work force who do not have a problem with earning less money if it offers them the opportunity to pursue the other interests in life that are important to them. A job sharing position should not to be confused with a part-time job. These types of employment opportunities are usually ones that require all the attention and dedication that is standard to the typical work day and week.
Job sharing offers small businesses a chance to retain valued employees that they would normally be in danger of losing if not for the flexible schedule. It can also help eliminate the need to train new employees if a valued employee were to leave the company. Job sharing can seem intimidating to managers, who may fear that it could lead to confusion, more paperwork, and a host of other hassles. If a proper plan is in place and each job sharer is held accountable for their duties, however, these issues can be avoided.
In order for a job sharing program to succeed, a solid plan must be put in place to ensure that the work gets done properly. Managers must pay close attention to how the system is working. Solid communication between work partners and management, as well as other employees who are not in the job sharing program, is a must. Done right, job-sharing can lead to a high level of productivity—perhaps even higher than the level contributed by a single, traditional employee.
The first step in implementing a job sharing program is to decide whether the job can be shared and if there are likely candidates with whom to share it. Most often, these candidates already exist within the company, although potential job sharers can be recruited from the outside workforce. Jobs with clearly defined individual tasks are the best to consider for job-sharing. Those that are more complex have a tendency of failing under this type of arrangement. Above all, management has to be committed to the job sharing program, as do the employees who are participating in it.
It is important to find partners in a job sharing position that have work styles, habits, preferences, quality standards, and communications skills that are compatible and closely matched. Many times, it can be advantageous if the employees select their own partners to ensure that these conditions are met. Most often it is important for employers to find job sharing partners with comparable skill levels, but there are still possible benefits if they do not. For instance, a more experienced worker can train an up-and-coming employee in a job sharing situation. When this happens, the employer can cut back on the time and money it would normally take to train the new employee, while also paying them a lower salary than the veteran worker during this time.
Employees who participate in job sharing divide their responsibilities in several different ways. They can share the job evenly or separate it into individual tasks that better suit each individual. If the job has unrelated tasks, those can also be divided. The work week can be split in half and shifts can be alternated so one employee works three days one week and two the next. Job sharing employees must be able to coordinate their schedules to make sure someone is always on the job when they are required to be.
It would seem that the one who benefits most from job sharing is the employee. This type of arrangement allows the employee to work part-time in order to spend more time with their families, attend school, or pursue other personal interests. New mothers find that it is a way to continue their careers while not having to deal with the stress and guilt that comes with putting their child in full-time day care. Experienced senior workers who wish to cut back a bit while still continuing their careers also benefit from job sharing, as do employees who wish to pursue more than one career opportunity at the same time. In addition, job sharing employees often find that this type of arrangement helps them to cut down on work-related stress and burnout.
Despite its often intimidating nature and the possibility of large-scale confusion, job sharing can also be seen as advantageous and desirable to small business owners and managers. First, there is the simple theory that two or more individual employees can bring a greater variety of abilities to the job than a single employee can. In some instances, job sharing can also lead to extended work days and therefore more productivity without having to pay employees overtime. Employers can also ask job sharers to work more during busy times, therefore eliminating the hassles of having to hire and train temporary employees.
Job sharing can also help to cut back on lost time due to vacations, sick days, and other personal situations that can cause someone to miss a day of work. Job-sharing employees might be more inclined to help work around the schedules of their partners to not only keep the work flowing smoothly, but also to accumulate time for when these type of situations come up for them and require the assistance of the job-share partner to ensure that the job gets done. Finally, because this type of arrangement allows a company to have more employees while not requiring them to be in the office at the same time, it is also an effective way to deal with a lack of office space, which can be a problem for many small businesses.
Employees who share a job have an arsenal of resources at their disposal to communicate with each other and ensure that the job is getting done. These resources include e-mail, phone and fax messages, checklists, and daily logs.
It is probably in the best interest of small business owners to conduct performance reviews of employees involved in a job sharing program to ensure that things are going smoothly. These reviews can either be individual evaluations of each worker or take the form of a team review. If one person is carrying the weight of the team and the other is not doing their fair share, it is up to management to decide if this is just an isolated problem with that particular team or if the job sharing program is just not a successful one for their business.
If a meeting that is pertinent to the job comes up, the employees and management must decide if both employees should attend or just one. It often helps if the job sharing employees who work on the same days are able to overlap their schedules in order to interact and keep things running as smoothly as possible.
Benefits for employees who participate in jobsharing can be handled in a variety of different ways. Full or partial benefits can be given to the job-sharer according to the specific situation. Benefits such as insurance and pension plans are easier to negotiate and are often prorated. Vacation time, personal and sick days, and even salary can be also be prorated to the amount of time each employee spends on the job. In order to avoid any unwanted difficulties, these issues should be established before the job-sharing program is implemented. A guide or formal contract is suggested to make sure everyone involved under-stands these issues. Usually job sharing results in a slight increase in benefit costs, mainly in covered statutory benefits like Social Security and employment taxes. Small business owners must decide if the assumed increase in productivity is enough to offset these costs. Since job sharers work fewer hours than typical employees do, overtime pay is rarely an issue in these types of situations.
Laqueur, Maria, and Donna Dickinson. Breaking Out of 9 to 5: How to Redesign Your Job to Fit You. 1994.
SEE ALSO: Flexible Work Arrangements