What Is Job Sharing, and How Can It Help Attract and Retain Talent?

Flexible work arrangements — such as job sharing — can be an important tool for hiring and retention.

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The 2021 job landscape has presented some major challenges for companies and employers. Many industries have labor shortages, employees are looking for the option to remain remote (even after offices reopen), and people’s values have shifted, with many seeking jobs that provide more flexibility. Because flexibility — in terms of time, location, and hours — is a top priority for people, offering a job sharing working arrangement can help your company attract and retain top talent.

What is job sharing?

While compensation will always remain an important aspect of work, employees also strongly value flexibility and wellness.

In short, job sharing is a flexible working arrangement where 2 people (or sometimes more) share the same full-time job. While not a common practice (only about 1-2% of jobs are shared), job sharing can be the perfect arrangement, depending on the needs of both the company and employees who are sharing the job.

Job sharing can help your company attract top talent because since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, employees’ values have evolved from even just a few years ago. While compensation will always remain an important aspect of work, employees also strongly value flexibility and wellness. One way to provide the type of flexibility your employees may be looking for is to offer job sharing. You may find it meets both the goals of your company and your employees.

For the company, the goal could be to not lose a great employee who is looking to reduce their hours, and for employees, it could be to shift gears towards a better work-life balance (more on this below).

How job sharing works

In a job sharing arrangement, there are several factors to consider to ensure all parties are set up for success, and are clear on their schedule and responsibilities.

Hours/schedule

Depending on the needs of the company and employees sharing the job, there are different schedules that you can put in place, or a mix of the below:

  • The two employees split the day: In this arrangement, both employees work on the same day, but different hours. For example, one person might work in the morning, and the other in the afternoon. This type of schedule might be best if the job requires all working hours of the day to be covered.
  • The two employees split the week: In this working arrangement, the 2 employees would work the same hours, but split the workdays. For example, one person might work Monday-Wednesday, and the other Thursday-Friday. This schedule would work best for employees who are available to work full days, but not full weeks.
  • The two employees work at the same time: In this type of set up, both employees would work at the same time (e.g. both are working every afternoon together). This would be the best schedule for roles with split job responsibilities, and not all working hours of the day require someone to be there. It’s also best for jobs where collaboration is important.

Job roles and responsibilities

How you divide the job role is entirely dependent on the needs of your business. There are 2 popular models: the twin model and the islands model.

  • Twin model: This is when you take exactly the same role and simply divvy up the days.
  • Islands model: This is when the job itself is split, and the employees take responsibility over specific tasks.

The approach you take between the twin and islands model will depend on the job, and what skills or expertise the role requires. For example, if the role is a customer service position, it might be an identical role where both people are doing the same functions, so you’d likely want to explore the twin model.

Advantages and disadvantages of job sharing

Both employers and employees can benefit from this type of flexible working arrangement. But there are also important considerations to bear in mind before going full steam ahead.

Advantages for the employer/company

  • Job sharing can help you retain top talent who might otherwise leave for better hours or more work-life balance.
  • The 2 people splitting the job will hold each other accountable.
  • There are 2 people to cover each other if someone gets sick, or an emergency comes up.
  • Having 2 people doing the same job can result in more ideas, and greater creativity.

Having 2 people doing the same job can result in more ideas, and greater creativity.

Disadvantages for the employer/company

  • There is the potential for incompatibility between the 2 people sharing the job in terms of working style or attitude, so management might have to step in for conflict resolution.
  • In many job sharing arrangements, the cost is equal or higher than one full-time worker, especially when factoring in cross-over days, where the employees’ time overlaps for better collaboration.
  • Costs can also increase if you plan on providing benefits to both employees.

Advantages for the employee

  • Job sharing allows for significant flexibility in terms of schedule, and could be the perfect fit for an employee looking to cut their hours, without quitting altogether.
  • Job sharing provides the work-life balance many employees are now seeking, as values have changed post-COVID, and employees who are able to maintain this balance can be less stressed.
  • Fewer days in the office means less commuting, a pain point for many people.

Disadvantages for the employee

  • If one employee has a different working style than the person they are sharing the role with, this could result in interpersonal conflicts.
  • Both workers will inevitably have to compromise since they aren’t doing the job alone. In a job someone does independently, employees can do tasks in the way they see fit. In a job sharing arrangement, they’ll have to work together and find middle ground.
  • Many job sharing arrangements do not offer benefits because of the reduced hours.

If one employee has a different working style than the person they are sharing the role with, this could result in interpersonal conflicts.

When done correctly, and in the right context, job sharing can benefit the company and the employee. It’s important to consider what the job entails, what your customers need, and what internal employees should expect to do their jobs properly.

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