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16th Mar, 2022

Christy Houghton
Christy Houghton
Job Title
Digital Content Writer

In the 1980 film ‘9 to 5’, the happy ending for its workforce included giving working parents the flexibility to work on a part-time basis and share their role. Interestingly, more than 40 years later, this is still a somewhat radical idea.

Given the post-Covid discourse on flexibility through hybrid and remote work, and the four-day working week, there is clearly now much higher demand from workers for greater flexibility. Agile companies who can accommodate different working models will find it easier to attract talent and retain their existing workforce.

What is job sharing? How does a job share work?

According to the CIPD, the definition of job sharing is “a form of part-time working where two (or occasionally more) people share the responsibility for a job between them”.

For companies that offer job sharing options to their employees, there are two main ways to do it: the twin model and the islands model.

Through the twin model, two employees would share one full-time position, its title, and the workload but they work at different times. Effectively, the two employees would become partners, both responsible for the same tasks. This would require two people who are able to work well together and communicate when there is overlap between their working hours.

The islands model works similarly in that the two professionals will be in the same role and both working part time, but it’s more of a job split than a job share. The only difference is that the two or more employees will split tasks between them rather than work together. This allows employers to hire more than one person for the same role who have complementary strengths for their different focus areas.

What are the pros of job sharing?

For many employers, this type of employment is unfamiliar in practice. However, if it’s implemented the right way, it could give your team a significant boost.

Positives include:

Demand for flexibility – giving two employees the work-life balance that they might need to prevent them from leaving altogether. There is high demand for flexibility from those with responsibilities outside of work, who want more variety in their work, or who simply want more free time.

It is not only working parents or carers who would like to work part time, but senior employees looking to expand and use their time for other meaningful work, or junior employees who want to broaden their experience. Recently, we have even seen the emergence of co-CEOs in UK businesses.

Greater productivity – particularly in the twin model, when two workers depend on each other to do their share of work, it increases their accountability to each other and to their employer. With effective communication and planning, they can set goals and share the success upon completion of their combined tasks.

Job satisfaction – with each professional in the role only working part time, they will have greater opportunity to switch off from work, which should ease stress and increase job satisfaction. The increased motivation created by sharing the workload could significantly increase the longevity of your employees.

Workplace continuity – having two or more professionals doing one role means that one person can fill in for another when the need arises. This will reduce the impact of staff absence due to sickness or childcare.

Two heads are better than one – with one person, you get one set of ideas, but with two or more people in the same role, there is greater scope for creativity and diversity in the work they produce.

Progression – giving two people the opportunity to work closely together allows them to form a bond, almost like a mentor/mentee dynamic, where they both learn from each other in different ways. This type of coaching provides greater opportunities for both to develop technical skills and soft skills like confidence.

What are the challenges of job sharing?

While a job-sharing arrangement can be beneficial to both employees and employer, there are some pitfalls to avoid:

Overlap – splitting the working day or working week (whichever model works best for your business) often includes a period when you are paying two people to do the same job at once. However, this overlap is usually short – it could be around an hour a week – but it’s necessary for the two to meet, to provide updates, plan and hand over tasks.

Benefits – while the salary would be almost split down the middle, job sharing means giving both parties access to the full benefits scheme your business offers, which would cost more, but would be highly attractive to potential employees.

Compatibility – the candidates you hire must be able to work well together. Those with differing work habits may be jarring for others, while also finding it difficult to work with each other. Employers should consider involving the other person in the recruitment process, or find another way of identifying their dynamic before hiring.

Overall, if you’re looking to increase attraction or retention within your business, offering the option for two professionals to share the role and work part time could help you do just that.

Get in touch with your nearest Reed office to find a specialist recruiter who can help you secure the perfect candidates.