Job Sharing: Twice the Profit or Double the Trouble?

You’ve heard all about it, but how are you able to make job sharing serve your business interests? Here are basic ways and long-term tips to make sure that you simply have two productive job sharers who are each happier than they were before.

According to the Society of Human Resource Management, a minimum of 22% of U.S. companies now offer some sort of job sharing. While the share is lowest in firms with fewer than 100 workers, the advantages of job-sharing arrangements merit consideration by entrepreneurs in growth companies. During this Quick-Read you’ll find:

• The basic advantages and disadvantages of job sharing.

• Tips to form a job-sharing program succeed.

• A plan of action to implement job sharing in your company.

The term “job sharing” was first coined within the 1960s to denote one full-time job shared by two people. It’s used when a position requires a full-time commitment or cannot easily be divided into two part-time jobs. Job sharing shouldn’t be confused with flexitime or telecommuting, though these could be incorporated into a job-share agreement. It shouldn’t be confused with work sharing either. Work sharing occurs when an employer reduces the workweek of all employees (for example, from 40 hours to 36 hours so as to avoid a tenth layoff).

Here’s how Job Sharing benefits the employer:

• Improve recruiting by attracting qualified employees who don’t want to work full-time.

• Improve retention by offering an alternate which will appeal to several workers.

• Reduce absenteeism and tardiness due to the flexibility offered.

• Give workers time to manage family and other personal responsibilities.

• Give the employer a pool of workers who are often asked to return to full-time work temporarily during high demand periods or to fill in for other employees who must be far away from their jobs unexpectedly.

• Increase productivity as it binds each partner to do his or her full share.

• Enhance output due to collaboration and exchange of ideas between partners.

• Increase engagement especially when a partner goes from full time to part time—instead of stress from missing deadlines, there’s pride at getting the work done.

However, there can also be several disadvantages to Job Sharing:

• Need for extra supervisory time.

• Possible disruption of work flow.

• Communication issues

• Scheduling challenges for training and meetings.

Tips for success:

Most managers who have run job-sharing programs feel that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Here are some recommendations on the way to make job-sharing serve your business interests:

• Identify the roles easiest to share. Functions most conducive to job sharing usually involve nonsupervisory skill positions like administrative assistants, accountants or factory line workers. Management positions are often harder because subordinates may develop a preference for one among the “two bosses.”

• Consider benefit reduction as a part of the package. Most of the people seeking reduced hours have a full-time earner within the household who receives employee benefits. Ask prospects not needing benefits like insurance to think about waiving them in exchange for an appropriate job-sharing arrangement.

• Develop a highly detailed work plan for the shared job, including not only individual job hours and functions, but provisions to handle situations involving each person’s work once they are off.

• Create a handoff plan for a smooth transition between job sharers, including not only notes on what was done and what must be done, but also some overlap time between the partners to debate these matters. Ask that the 2 job sharers each spend a couple of minutes of unpaid time with one another before each transition, reciprocally for your flexibility in permitting job sharing.

• Implement regular reporting  to management, like weekly or monthly reports.

• Evaluate job-sharing partners individually. If one is more skilled than the other one, consider giving the senior staffer more responsibility and pay the junior employee less. Make sure to review their work jointly, similar to your other employees. It is vital to reward job sharers for private performance, both for his or her own sake and to defuse accusations of unfairness by other employees.

• Establish an attempt period for every new job-sharing pair. Set a timeline after which the arrangement is going to be reviewed and continued as long as it meets the approval of both partners and their manager.

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