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Job Sharing Secrets for Working Moms and Dads

A Guide to Success at Job Sharing


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Job sharing can be a terrific solution for working moms or dads who want to pursue a high-powered career while raising a family. But putting job sharing into effect is more difficult than it might seem.

Job Sharing Is Like Marriage

Like a happy marriage, effective job sharing requires trust, good communications, flexibility and compatible partners. The key factor in the success of a job-share situation is the right fit between employees. Take your time to find the right teammate.

Your job-share partner should have a similar professional style, work ethic, career goals and standards as you. You don't want to come to work for your half of the week and have to re-do all the work your teammate completed because it's not up to snuff.

Most importantly, you should trust that any issues that arise when you are out of the office will be handled in a professional and thorough manner. You must be confident that your job will be performed equally well whether it's your day or hers.

Job Sharing Relies on Communication

A job share should function as smoothly as if only one person filled the position. You and your partner must communicate as seamlessly as if you shared a brain.

That means setting up systems that make it easy and quick for you to hand off projects to each other. The other person should easily be able to find the answer to questions and understand the work you completed. For instance:

  • At the end of your work shift, leave a memo about the work you completed.
  • Agree on consistent methods for naming and organizing both computer files and paper records.
  • Develop a way to sort and store e-mail that is efficient and simple.
  • Communicate clearly with other members of your work team. For instance, a job-share team might use a shared email account, but the person writing a given email signs her name.

Some job-share teams work so well together that they even apply for promotions or new jobs as a team. You could either develop a joint resume, or have one person apply for the position and mention your interest in job sharing during the interview process.

Set a Consistent Schedule

It may be tempting to split a job share position exactly in half, with each person covering 20 hours a week. That may work for service positions, where you complete all your tasks during the allotted hours and few projects carry over.

But for most jobs, it's best for a job-share team to overlap at least once during every week. That lets you communicate in person about ongoing projects, meetings and goals. Some teams have each job-share partner work three days a week -- two solo and one shared day (often Wednesday).

By working side by side at least once a week, you strengthen the trust and team orientation that will ensure the success of your partnership.

Agree in advance which person is "on call" for after-hours emergencies on any given day. You might want to split each week, alternate weeks or even alternate months, depending on what works best for your other responsibilities.

Be Flexible

Of course, one of the key benefits of job sharing is your ability to cover for your partner when she's on vacation or out sick or with a sick child. So it's important to be flexible in scheduling.

Each member of the job-share team should have flexible child care or back-up plans, such as a grandparent or other family member, in case the other partner has a personal emergency on the day when she's scheduled to work.

You also should communicate well in advance of any major life changes, such as possible maternity leave, applying for a promotion or potential relocation due to a spouse's career change. The last thing you want is to blindside the person who's made it possible for you to enjoy a challenging, gratifying career while also having time for your family.

Also on this site, you can read about what a job share is, some FAQ's about job sharing and the downside of job sharing.
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