Monday, 2 November 2009

The result of job-sharing: two miserable people

There’s an interesting opinion piece in the current edition of Management Today on whether or not Job-Sharing actually works.

On the upside, the writer somewhat hesitantly states that flexible working has helped a number of firms through the recession without the need for redundancies.

But on the down-side, the author is highly suspicious about whether such flexible working practices actually work:
The big fallacy of job-shares is that if two people do half a week each, you end up with a full-time equivalent. But you don’t really. Inevitably, things end up falling through the cracks between the two, or deadlines get pushed back, or service levels suffer. As a business, you only have half the amount of knowledge of the role present at any one time. So when random questions come up, as they invariably do, you’ve only got a 50-50 shot of being able to answer them.
Other potential pitfalls of job-sharing are stated as:

It gets even more complicated if the two people concerned don’t actually like each other.

Generally both people are miserable, because as far as their manager is concerned the best they can do is half a job.

It's bad for the business, because in this case a half plus a half doesn’t necessarily equal one.

Management Today: Does job-sharing ever work?
  • This all seems somewhat negative to me, so I’d be interested to hear your views, particularly from those who have had experience of job-sharing, or any other form of flexible working.


  1. Hi Graham,

    I'm on short-time working at the moment as a result of the recession. It's perhaps not quite 100% job sharing as both myself and my boss work 3 day weeks, but almost!

    I'm reasonably pro short-time working, but then I'm lucky enough to get on with my boss, who I split the work with. Honestly, in this climate, I would rather have part of a job than none at all. It keeps me mentally active, gives me an income (albeit a smaller one) and I do genuinely feel as though I'm doing my bit to help the company survive (which I hope it does).

    There are plenty of downsides though; all of them addressed in the article. Thankfully we get at least one day a week when we're both in the office and so can hand over work and catch up. This only really works one way though; I work the first half of the week, hand over to my boss in person, and then she covers the rest of the week. But then there's no second handover day so she has to spend what is already precious time writing an update email to me for the next week, letting me know everything that's happened and that I need to follow up on.

    Following up is definitely the hardest thing. We work in recruitment and, thankfully, it's not a territorial, competitive place like some recruitment companies are. Even so though, it's impossible to follow through with anything on a personal level. Opportunities get followed up by whoever is in that day (even if the client has never spoken to the other one of us before), things slip through the net (thankfully not much) and it all feels vaguely dissatisfying not being able to see anything through to completion and picking up bits and bobs half way through. Well, in my opinion anyway.

    And there's obviously the time factor. 18mths ago there were 5 people in our department. That dropped to 3 through natural wastage and then to two. And now there's two of us working 1.2 people's jobs! We've had to streamline everything and service levels MUST have suffered to some extent, though we have been very careful about how things are adjusted. And there's also a wealth of other day to day bits and pieces we end up 'mucking in' with now where other people aren't in full time.

    But you know what? I think it's kinda good for morale. I may be tired and poor and worried about my future, but those who are left in the company are really pulling together to help and we're all in the same boat! There's something nice about that. There's something nice about working together to do our best to keep things going and slowly but surely seeing the pay off. So I'm pro short-time working or job sharing or whatever you want to label it. But maybe I'm just lucky...

  2. Whilst I have never worked in a job share situation, I was in a team that was lead by a job share partnership. This was an ‘interesting’ time for a number of reasons:
    • they had very different leadership styles
    • the ‘cross over day’ always seemed to be taken up with extended handover discussions hence, from the teams point of view, no-one was around.
    • often contradictory advice/guidance would be given
    • the team tended to store any issues up for the days when the ‘preferred’ team leader was in the office.
    I am sure that some partnerships work perfectly well but I do think it is important that, for the partnership to have any chance of surviving, the couple need to be compatible in all respects. Bit like a marriage really!!


  3. In response to the Management Today article: the author states that "half and half doesn't necessarily equal one". S/he feels that two job-sharers equal less than one.
    In fact, a good job-share partnership will equal far more than one:
    - Two people bringing double the amount of experience and knowledge to the one job.
    - Often job-sharers are people who could have been more senior if they had chosen to work full-time. Thus their level of competence and experience can be higher than other staff at the same level.
    - Job-sharers will cover each other's holiday and sickness absences, a clear benefit to the employer.
    Hearing about how it felt to be managed by a job-share partnership from "Anonymous " is fascinating - a different angle. It highlights some of the key issues to avoid - such as giving contradictory advice.
    A good job-share partnership would, as "Anonymous" says, be compatible. They would be clear about lines of management and would avoid duplication. "Anonymous" would have been better off if the job-share partners had each managed different members of staff according to their areas of expertise, avoiding the problem of competitive management. United we stand, divided we fall.
    Keep up with job-sharing issues at

  4. All: As ever, thanks a bunch for your contributions which are most welcome!

    Part of the reason for inviting this debate was to allow A Level students to see the opinions of those who have real experience of job-sharing, which will allow them to more fully understand the issue of flexible working - a dry subject without some real-life comment.

    I'm sure that your contributions will be gratefully be received by a significant number of students and their teachers, so thanks again