Chloe Tait and Katy Murray have been sharing the role of Campaign Managers, Diversity and Inclusion, at the Association of British Insurers (ABI) for 18 months. As part of their job share, they have developed the Making Flexible Work Campaign and Charter. This new initiative is aimed at increasing flexible working – including job sharing – in the UK insurance and long-term savings sector – and at reducing the gender seniority gap.
We asked Tait and Murray the first word that comes to mind about their working arrangement, their joint answers spell out "Team" "Trust". "I'm part of a mini team of two people working six days a week to cover one role. And I get to enjoy all the benefits which that brings. Katy isn’t just someone I share a job with but someone with whom I can share the highs and lows; someone who champions what I do, but who also makes my work better" says Tait. This team spiritedness is something "many professionals in a job share have expressed as part of our research and is core to their success" says Sophie Smallwood, co-founder of Roleshare - a platform matching professionals to co-apply for jobs, "a job effectively goes from being singular minded to synergized."
Tait and Murray knew each other before sharing a role. "Chloe and I trust each other completely. We rely on each other and we're good friends in and out of work. We really enjoy working together and we care about what we do. We've got different strengths, and through this trust and teamwork, we learn from each other and achieve better results" said Murray.
However, as more companies welcome job sharing, a growing number of professionals in job shares are joining up without knowing each other prior. Sherelle Folkes and Nichola Johnson-Marshall who co-Head External Communication at Open Banking didn't know each other prior, establishing trust quickly was core to their joint success. "We thought about what's the best way to do the job and divvy it up and think about being really organized. And number one in that was being able to trust each other and have very open lines of communication. So we were very honest right from the start about the sort of things that we liked, our way of working, what things annoyed us, that sort of thing" said Folkes.
Tait and Murray both started job sharing as a way to sustain their careers along side young families. "My kids, my career and my wider interests are all important to me. Job sharing with Katy enables me to balance all those things. When I’m not working, I get to spend time with my children while they are little, and I get time for my voluntary work and, occasionally, to just relax!" says Tait. Being a working parent is a common use case for job sharing. However, many other examples and use cases are coming to light. Helena Zaum who shared an Industry Executive role with Ellen Wilson at Microsoft says "We need to bust the myth that job sharing is for working mothers. It's not. It's for people who want a portfolio career, potentially, it's for people who might have physical or mental health challenges, for that matter, who are more comfortable working a slightly more restricted working week."
Life has been very difficult over the last year for many people – job sharing has helped both Tait and Murray manage the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. They explain, "one of us can always carry on the work if the other is struggling with illness or needs to care for a family member. If only one of us was working in this role then there would have been times when progress slowed or stopped altogether."
The pair are the first job share team at the ABI and part of their role is championing job sharing across the UK Insurance and Long-Term Savings sector. "We're responsible for developing and delivering the Diversity and Inclusion Strategy for the sector and, as part of this work, we recently launched the Making Flexible Work Campaign and Charter. One aspect of this campaign focuses on raising awareness of and increasing job sharing, so it’s been a huge bonus being able to talk about our own experiences of job sharing and how it can work for individuals and organisations" say Tait and Murray.
Diversity of thought is a stand-out benefit of job sharing not only for the pairs, but for their greater teams, stakeholders, and companies. Tait and Murray agree "job sharing means that you always have someone else to add their ideas to your work and to discuss any challenges and find solutions." Studies from Deloitte and McKinsey have shown diverse teams are more innovative and better performing. "You can problem-solve and innovate in your mini team before having to take an issue or question to your manager. Two heads are better than one and you can achieve much more as a team than as an individual. Our colleagues and clients definitely benefit from this – and so do we" say Tait and Murray.
Diversity of thought, continuity, higher wellbeing are some unique benefits of job sharing when compared to other ways of working, including part time. Tait and Murray concur, "we’ve both worked part-time in previous roles and found that you’re often playing catch up. With job sharing the role is always covered – one of you is always there to attend that meeting, be part of that critical conversation, or respond to emails. And, as a team, we have high energy levels throughout the week as we pass the baton from one to the other."
Tait and Murray both work three days a week with a day overlap, this overlap drives exponential productivity. They explain, "each Wednesday we meet for one hour and for the rest of the day we'll often be in two places at once. It's also important to say that on our non-working days we still think about work, but we know that everything is progressing and in safe hands. This distance helps with problem solving too – taking a step back for half the week provides perspective and this can be a very good thing!"
The pair have identified 1. being collaborative, 2. presenting a united front, 3. being equally capable in the role, and 4. getting the handover right, as critical factors to their success in the role and meeting the expectations of colleagues and clients. "The other person needs to know exactly what’s been going on, so they are on the front foot when they start their working week and pick up where the other left off. We’ve found WhatsApp useful too and will stay in touch on non-working days if needed and let each other know if they need to get a head start on the week" say Tait and Murray.
"Teams are not notorious for being agreeable. The magic is in the differences and capitalizing on them, so together they can go further than one person could alone," says Smallwood. Tait and Murray add "we’re also very open with each other and trust each other completely. Any feedback is given and taken in the best possible way. We don’t always agree – but we are completely comfortable with that and know that debate leads to better results." Tait and Murray have joint objectives with separate development objectives. They benefit from each other's strengths, "we learn from each other each week and we want to deliver our best work for each other and the organisation." To learn more or sign up to the ABI's Making Flexible Work Campaign and Charter led by Tait and Murray visit here.