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Can job sharing work at your firm?

By Sara Okuoro | Feb 24th 2020 | 4 min read
By Sara Okuoro | February 24th 2020

Splitting a single role between two employees can have many benefits for employers, including a broader skills base and the ability to use flexible talent - but how can staff be sure job shares work for them?

We explore this topic with Michael Armstrong (FCA), the Regional Director for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

What is job sharing? And how does it work?

Job sharing or work sharing is an employment arrangement where typically two people are retained on a part-time or reduced-time basis to perform a job normally fulfilled by one person working full-time. Since all positions are shared, this leads to a net reduction in per-employee income.

The people sharing the job work as a team to complete the job task and are equally responsible for the job workload. Compensation is apportioned between the workers.

Working hours, pay and holidays are divided in proportion to the time sharing agreements. Flexible working is now a fact of life globally in the professional services sector.

When should job sharing be considered in a firm?

Arguably the most common argument for job sharing is when employees seek to reduce their work hours in a bid to enhance their work-life balance.

Job sharing is a benefit because it keeps two valuable employers, thereby increasing intellectual capital and experience.

Job sharing can also prevent future employee burnouts from high stress careers while also making the work atmosphere more enjoyable for all. Job sharing in the Kenyan market though not common, is now being taken up by firms present within the country.

A survey on job sharing conducted at the West Kenya Sugar Company found that 80 percent of the employees felt that their responsibilities were well handled by a colleague with whom they share a job, showing that it is a model that can be accepted by the Kenyan worker.

The post of Business Editor at the Africa bureau of the BBC is currently being held by three editors on a rotational basis, giving the other two an opportunity to pursue their own personal goals in the knowledge that they are part of a well-oiled machine.

It may not be an option that’s at the forefront of an employer’s mind, but they often consider it when they have a valued member of staff who needs flexible working for whatever reason. Employers often do not underestimate the cost of finding someone new and developing them into the business culture. That will often outweigh the cost of making a job share work.

What constitutes a successful job share?

A successful job share relies not only on a good relationship between employees and employer, but between the two (or more) sharers themselves. Successful job share pairings create a mutual relationship and feel accountable for one another, consequently increasing the accomplishments they achieve together.

Everything needs to be agreed and documented. There needs to be a clear plan in place about each person’s responsibilities, and how they’re accountable to each other for the standard of what they achieve together.

There are special considerations such as the expectation that employees are reachable during their days off – and the whole idea of the ‘always on’ culture which is controversial in some quarters. However, fielding the occasional call may be the price job sharers will pay for flexibility.

The person who’s not doing the job on a particular day may need to make themselves available, because both employees are to an extent reliant on each other.

Allowing people to work the hours that better fit their lives has been found to have a positive impact on their productivity and their wellbeing. Research conducted in the United Kingdom by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) recently found that people who are offered flexible working, which includes working from home, flexitime and job sharing, are happier, less stressed and more productive than people who do not have flexible working options. And, they have a better work-life balance.

What challenges exist when it comes to implementing a job share?

Some client-facing position involve close external relationships. What’s more, senior members of a firm may find it difficult to surrender control to someone nominally at the same level as themselves.

Certainly, as one goes up the pyramid towards leadership finance positions, it gets more challenging. If you’re a CFO, you may well want to have full control of the ship. This is however not restricted to the financial services sector only. That’s not to say it can never work, but it needs to be carefully planned to ensure a consistent level of service is maintained.

What are some golden rules for employees seeking a job share?

Have a look at your situation and make sure you have a clear idea of what you can commit to: ideally, what would your work pattern look like? Do you want to work part-time by doing two full days each week, or five half-days?

And even though employers may be happy to consider job shares, they may not go out of their way to advertise the fact. Using a good recruiter can help you land these opportunities, but it’s also worth using your own personal network, asking around and keeping your eyes open.

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