Job Sharing

An Interview: Part 1

Two business women discussing a project.
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Many women and men are faced with the choice of continuing their careers or raising a family. Job sharing provides the opportunity to do both. To learn more about this alternative work arrangement, I interviewed Kathy Tenenbaum and Gerri Vopelak of Job Sharing Resources, a company based in Merrick, New York.

Dawn Rosenberg McKay: Can you please tell me about your company, Job Sharing Resources?

Job Sharing Resources: Job Sharing Resources is an employment services company, that is dedicated to job sharing.

We focus on positions in information systems, finance, marketing and administration. Job Sharing Resources will find a job sharing partner for employees that a company wants to keep, and keep satisfied. Job Sharing Resources can match up job share partners with the right experience and needs. My partner Gerri and I have expertise and personal experience in the area of job sharing and understand the nuances of this alternative work arrangement.

DRM: Can you explain what job sharing is?

JSR: Job sharing is a flexible work arrangement where the responsibilities of a full-time position are split between two people. Job sharing offers many benefits to companies as well as meeting the needs of the employee.

DRM: Why would someone consider a job share? How can it benefit an employee?

JSR: Someone would consider job sharing when they feel that because of personal responsibilities they can no longer work on a full time basis.

Job sharing allows an individual to create a sense of balance in their lives, while still being able to preserve their career skills and status within their profession.

The first step in thinking about job sharing as a possible option is to take the time to assess the various components of one's own life: work versus personal relationships.

During this process of career life planning, one should think about their own life and whether it is in balance.

DRM: It's fairly simple to understand the concept of splitting a salary based on the percentage of time each person works. Benefits, i.e. health benefits, vacations, and sick days, are a little more complicated, I imagine. How does that work?

JSR: If part-time employees in the company receive full-time benefits, then each partner would also receive full benefits. If full-time benefits are not available, one option is for one of the partners to forego the benefits if they can go on a spouse's plan, while the other partner retains the benefits. Benefits can also be offered on a prorated basis where the two employees' benefits equal the cost of one person.

DRM: How long has the concept of job sharing been around?

JSR: We have read about isolated examples of job sharing in the early 1980s. However, job sharing has really become more prevalent during the last ten years, as women have entered the professional ranks in greater numbers and expressed interest in alternative work arrangements.

Part 2

DRM: Are employers usually receptive to this concept? Since employers always want to know how something benefits them, how can job sharing do that?

JSR: Once an employer understands the many benefits of job sharing, they are usually quite receptive. While it is not easy to implement new strategies in the workplace, the benefits speak for themselves:

  • Acts as a benefit that can be worth money and can be used as an attraction and retention mechanism.
  • Enables a company to reach an untapped pool of highly motivated professionals who are using the services of Job Sharing Resources.
  • Enables the new employee to get "up to speed" quicker.
  • Acts as an incentive for many professionals since time has become as important as money.
  • Helps to maintain "diversity" in the workplace.
  • Rewards talent and increases job satisfaction.
  • Increases morale and productivity. When an employee has created a more balanced life through job sharing, their anxiety and stress levels are greatly reduced.

According to ground-breaking research by Xerox and the Ford Foundation, employers that do not consider how family and work responsibilities affect each other are hindering their ability to operate more efficiently and productively. The study, Relinking Life and Work shows what work-family proponents have believed for some time: If organizations took time to question the way work is done, taking into account employees' personal needs, solutions that substantially improve both work and life would evolve.

DRM: If two employees are interested in initiating a job share relationship, how can they go about doing so? Do you have any hints for putting together the proposal?

JSR: A written job sharing proposal might include the following:

  • Definition of job sharing
  • Overview of the benefits of job sharing
  • Reasons the employer should consider restructuring the job
  • Proposed work plan and schedule

DRM: Can you think of any cases where a job share wouldn't work?

JSR: The most important aspect of a job sharing arrangement is the professionals who are part of the team. Recruitment is more complex because not only do you have to find a person with the right skills and experience, you also have to find someone who doesn't mind sharing, who doesn't get proprietary about her work, who communicates well, and who is a good team member. Therefore, if you don't have the right people in place, the arrangement won't work.

Gerri Vopelak is a partner at Job Sharing Resources. She has job shared for over three years at a major publishing company. She is married with two children.

Kathy Tenenbaum is also a partner at Job Sharing Resources. She was a vice president at a major investment banking firm for fifteen years, where she worked in both the Human Resources and Controllers Divisions. She is married with three children.

Part 1