Job sharing is an arrangement that lets you share the tasks of a full-time position with one or more employees. When you share a job, the pay and benefits are adjusted based on the portion of the work that you do and the policies of your organization. About one-fifth of all employers have formal job-sharing programs, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. Others may be willing to work out this type of arrangement on a case-by-case basis even if no formal policy exists. Even if the company permits it, your manager or department head may have reservations. Job sharing can involve both advantages and challenges for you and your employer. Following is information on how to make a job-sharing arrangement work for you and your organization.
Who can benefit from job sharing?
Job sharing can work in many kinds of jobs, from entry-level positions to those requiring years of managerial experience. About 90 percent of job-sharers are women, but employers who have job-sharing programs also offer them to men.
The following are some of the many reasons why you might want to share a job:
- You need more time for personal responsibilities such as going to school, caring for children or older relatives, or pursuing an outside interest or further education.
- You are nearing retirement and would like to reduce your hours.
- You have health issues that make a full-time schedule difficult for you.
The different types of job sharing
When you share a job, you don't necessarily have to split the time 50-50 with someone else. Other common job-sharing arrangements include the following:
- a straight 50-50 split of time with each person working a half day every day, two-and-a-half days a week, or one week on and one week off
- a 60-40 split with one person working three days and another person working two
- an 80-20 split with one person working four days and another person working one
There are also other ways to share a job. If a job needs more than one full-time person but fewer than two, each person might work three days a week with overlap on one day. Or, more than two people might share the job.
The best job-sharing arrangement depends partly on your job. If only one of you has a specialized skill that's needed frequently, each of you may need to work half a day every day. In other situations, you may have more freedom to work out a different type of arrangement.
The pros and cons of job sharing
After you begin sharing a job, any adjustments that you need to make will affect both you and your work partner. So it's important to think carefully about all the advantages and disadvantages before you begin job sharing.
Some of the pros of sharing a job include having
- reduced hours without having to change jobs or employers
- more free time to spend on personal or family concerns
- a work partner who shares your job concerns and responsibilities
- the ideas and talents of two people instead of one
- someone who can "cover" for you in an emergency
Some of the cons of sharing a job may include having
- conflicts with your work partner that involve personalities or priorities
- reduced benefits, such as sick days or vacation time
- a slower rate of learning and advancement than co-workers who work full-time
- more challenging relationships with co-workers, customers, or vendors, who may prefer to work with one or the other of you
- less day-to-day work continuity and more time catching up on what happened when you weren't working
Job sharing may involve all of these pros and cons, or just a few. To do your best, you will need to be willing to experiment with a variety of arrangements and approaches to splitting the work until you find the one that works best for you and your work partner.
Working with your manager
Sharing a job will mean extra work for your manager, who will need to supervise two or more employees instead of one. Although the company may permit such arrangements, be prepared to convince your manager that, in your case, the advantages for her will outweigh the disadvantages. You can show that you appreciate your manager's support by communicating clearly and honestly with your manager at every stage of the process.
Here are some questions to discuss with your manager.
- What adjustments in pay and benefits will be required if you share a job? Time off can be prorated, but some benefits may be difficult to split. Your benefits coordinator will be able to help you identify potential issues.
- What kind of schedule does your manager think would work best if you share a job? For example, would your manager prefer you to work full days or half days?
- How will your performance be evaluated under the arrangement? Will you and your work partner be eligible for promotion as a team or separately?
- What would happen if you or your partner wanted to end the arrangement, or if your partner went full time or left the company? Would you be able to switch to another partner or get a part-time job in your organization? Could you be required to go full time?
- How would sharing a job affect your short- and long-term goals at work? What do you need to do to achieve your goals?
- To what extent would you be required to “cover” for each other? Most likely, such coverage would be expected for vacations. What about sick leave, or other last-minute absences? What about a lengthy leave of absence?
- You and your work partner may want to draw up a written agreement about how you will split the time and responsibilities of your job and go over this with your manager before you reach any final decisions about what would work best. Make sure you know which aspects of the arrangement you will also need to discuss with your human resources (HR) department.
Effective job sharing almost always involves some trial-and-error, but the effort can have advantages for everybody who is involved. By working as team, you and your partner may achieve a better work-life balance while making an even greater contribution to your organization.