Today’s workforce is going through an unprecedented reshuffling. Employees who were hanging on to jobs for dear life during the start of pandemic are letting go in masses. Companies are facing incredible challenges to retain and attract employees with growing expectations for flexibility.
Many freelancers, working parents, carers, mature working learners, Gen Z/X, boomers want to work part-time or simply don’t want to work full-time with a single company. Small and large organizations are trying anything from hybrid and distributed to fully remote and 4-day work weeks. And now a growing number of them offer job share benefits.
With job share benefits, employees individually work 3 days – sharing the responsibilities, benefits, and salary of a job – and the company gets 6 days of focused productivity (sometimes 7, even 8 days). It isn’t a one-size fits all. Company leaders are creating a suite of combinable flexible working benefits to remain productive and competitive in attracting and retaining skilled knowledge workers.
Job sharing is a working model that was ahead of its time, and today is resurging to present a real opportunity for mutual benefit to companies and people. The World Economic Forum recognized job sharing to be a path to economic transformation, helping to reduce the gender pay/seniority gap. In the UK, research has shown job sharing drives 30% more productivity and 11% increase in wellbeing over other ways of working.
Sophie Smallwood, co-founder of Roleshare, a platform helping companies retain employees and attract talent by matching them to share full-time jobs together, says “enabling role share is good for company resilience. It brings greater continuity, diversity, and complementary experiences into jobs; and the peer-to-peer collaboration drives increased accountability and full-loop learning” says Smallwood. Dr. Shelagh Muir, who shares the role of VP Research and Development at Unilever with Jane Maciver, said “it brings a real business benefit in terms of the quality of the solution.”
Though job share benefits are increasing, there aren’t many stand-out solutions to support companies in doing it. “There are tons of questions and challenges around the operability of job sharing,” says Smallwood, and “we’re excited to solve for them.” One common question asked by almost every curious mind out there is “what kinds of jobs are shareable?”, quickly followed by, “why not just split a job into two part-time jobs?”
The Answer: Continuity.
Jobs that are portfolio, deadline, or relationship driven, as well as management roles, are not ideal candidates for part time jobs in larger companies. We're talking about lots of jobs. Lots. It's also not just about the job, but about the people sharing the job - hence, why Roleshare matches people together to share jobs. Think dating meets job search. As far as jobs go, jobs similar to these are great candidates for role share:
- Portfolio driven - i.e. Customer Success jobs
- Deadline driven - i.e. Marketing jobs
- Relationship driven - i.e. HR jobs
- Management roles - i.e. lots of jobs. Management roles are often not part-timeable, which further drives the gender pay gap and gender seniority gap. Millions of experienced professional working women have to sacrifice career growth for parenting or vice versa.
When working part-time, alone in a role, being away for a few days, every week, could halt or slow progress for other stakeholders involved. It can create a perceived, or real, burden on the rest of the team. Part-timers often feel pressure to work, or check in, on days “off”. Research also suggests they’re less “promotable”. Not ideal for them either.
The need for business continuity is exactly why splitting the job into two part-time jobs wouldn’t benefit the business. The continuity that is derived from job sharing is a direct result of the shared responsibility and joint objectives of the pair in the role. “Being measured together drives 1:1 accountability, higher individual commitment, healthy peer pressure to drive a better quality outcome. The social contract present in a role share is a unique benefit to the business" says Smallwood.
So why is job share not standard practice yet? One word. Timing. “Job sharing is an idea that surfaced in the workforce in the 70’s” says Smallwood. “Now is the time,” she says, “we have more career-oriented women in the workforce than ever before, a boom in enterprise communication tools, we’ve had a global pandemic, we’ve embraced remote working, we’re experiencing a great resignation – it’s the start of the employee-led workforce and role sharing stands to benefit companies and people.”
So perhaps a better question at this juncture is, with the almost instinctively obvious benefits and opportunities job sharing can bring to the workforce, who are those companies doing it and what can we learn from their leadership models? Check out the Roleshare blog and podcast for more insights from MasterCard, Microsoft, Lloyds Bank, Unilever, and many others.