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The joys of a job share- working part time

When a job share works well it can be a really wonderful thing that significantly improves your working life. For me, it’s one of my favorite things about my job.

When I first applied for my job it was advertised as full-time but I applied even though I knew I didn’t want to work full-time. When I was offered the role, it then dawned on me that I was going to have to request to be part-time. Of course in theory this is a completely ok thing to do but I was nervous - I felt like a pain and thought my new manager who didn’t know me yet would regret offering me the job. I knew I shouldn't have felt like this but it was hard not to.

My worries turned out to be completely unwarranted because my manager was super accommodating and open and it was he who had the idea for a job share.

A lot of the information on job shares suggests that you need to know your job share very well in advance to make it work. Whilst I don’t disagree with this, me and Cat are living proof that this doesn’t always need to be the case. We’d never worked with or even spoken to each other before, despite us both working in the same organisation. So I had no idea how it would work, if it would work or if we would even like each other.

Thankfully it does work really well (and we like each other!)… some of that might be luck, but there are definitely some things we can share about how we’ve made it a success - so how do we make it work?

We work at it

A bit like any relationship, we work at it. This involves communicating, being open and honest, and making the space to reflect on what’s going well and what’s not. Fortunately this comes naturally for both of us and doesn’t feel difficult (at least not for me anyway). But it does involve building in time. For example we hold quarterly retrospectives on how our job share is working. If you don’t know what a retrospective is see here for further info, tips and ideas of how to do them.

We learn from others

Both Cat and I have spent time learning from other job shares and what works for them, stealing tips and hacks that have helped make our job share work too.

We respect and appreciate each other’s strengths and differences

And we use these to our advantage. Cat and I are quite different in our styles, approach, strengths and skills. For example, Cat’s background is in comms and she loves planning and organising. So she tends to lead on those, while I lead on crisis management and building cross-organisational relationships.

Working with someone very closely who has different skills and strengths has allowed me to learn different things. I’ve had to be open to this but I think it has equipped me so much to do my role better but has also added to my skill bag for the future. Our differences complement each other and I think this makes us a wonderful team.

We have the same values

Despite our different skills and approaches we share the same core values - we’re both conscientious hard workers, have a desire to succeed in our job and have the team (and each other’s) best interests at heart. This means that we trust each other’s judgement, decisions and opinions. And this means that on our non-working days we don’t think or worry about work. We just get to be off with our babies and know that the other one has it covered. What a lovely feeling.

We have a face-to-face cross-over day every Monday

We really value having face-to-face time. We use it to plan and review our ceremonies together. We put the time in to make sure they are working and adapt them accordingly based on feedback and what the team might need. It also helps us build our relationship, and gets us on the same page before we “break up” for the week. We set aside time to discuss what’s going on and what our priorities are for the days ahead.

We use voicenote handovers

After our Mondays together, Cat works Tuesdays and Wednesday mornings, and then I work Thursdays and Fridays. We send each other voicenote handovers at the end of a Wednesday and Friday. They basically cover what’s happened over the last 2 days, and anything we need the other person to pick-up.

Cat first suggested we do our handovers via voice notes (a tip she’d picked up from a job-sharing friend of hers). I was sceptical but wanted to give it a go (plus I didn’t have a better suggestion!) We’ve never looked back because, for us, they work extremely well. It took a little bit of time to get them to a good place but with some practice, review and feedback they work so well and are a key to how we communicate. It also means our team don’t have to repeat things twice to us - they just know we’ll have passed anything important on. The significant thing I learnt to make them work better is to take 5 minutes to plan them beforehand.

We asked our team for feedback

This was scary and I didn’t want to do it, but Cat had previously worked in a team where she was one of the only full-time people, and felt strongly that she wanted to find out if our job-share was working for our (mainly full-time) team. Doing it with Cat made me feel less vulnerable. Via the means of a survey we asked the team how we were doing, what we could improve, and got their suggestions for making it work better for them. For example, it was highlighted the team needed more clarity of our job share working arrangements and patterns so we set up a shared calendar for everyone to access and have oversight of.

We make sure our meetings and documents have shared permissions

We’ve learnt this the hard way (and still forget at times!) For example, when one of us has arranged a meeting, but then something changes and the other one needs to change it and doesn’t have the right permissions. Or a document that needs sharing, but only one of us has permission to share…it’s not the end of the world, but trying to make sure we always give each other the right access and permissions just helps make life a little easier.

Job shares aren’t as common as they should or could be, but when they work they work really well and are a real asset to both those wanting to work part-time and an employer. You get two people bringing a range of different skills and experiences. You also get two people who bring their all to a role because it's important they do this for the job share to work and because the time they have to do it in is limited and precious. So when a job share works, an employer gets two for the price of one - what a bonus.

Being one half of a job share has been such a positive experience that I have learnt so many great things from, and it’s given me a completely different experience of work. It has also allowed me to be actually part-time - rather than trying to do a full-time job part-time, which I imagine would be really stressful. I am able to work part-time and enjoy my time off with my baby knowing everything is not only completely covered but that my job share is also adding so much value to our shared role.

If you are considering part-time work or want to request it, consider a job share and ask your employer to think about the option of a job share.

There’s now a job share website set up to ‘matchmake’ you with your perfect job share which is worth checking out if you are thinking about job sharing as an option;

It could completely change your working experience, for the better.

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