Sharing is caring: the benefits of job sharing for employers, employees and project teams
You get a much broader skillset when you hire two people instead of one
Jamieson and Katherine have been working together for a while, and when they joined dxw as Delivery Leads they did so as a job share – on separate part time contracts but with the intention they would be deployed on projects as a pair.
What led you to the idea to job share?
K: There are a lot of reasons why people might decide to job share. For me, I learned the hard way that working full-time literally makes me ill. I have a condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and it has a huge range of symptoms which are only manageable if I’m extremely careful with my activity levels day to day.
J: I’m also limited by health factors. There are usually issues of marginalisation underneath why people aren’t able to work the normalised 35+ hours. Disability and caring responsibilities are much more likely to fall upon people of marginalised genders, race, sexuality and so on. We were both frustrated to see how few jobs there were in our sector that accommodate part time working. Although many employers offer ‘flexible’ working, this tends to apply more to temporary situations such as parenting young children, rather than constraints that are less likely to lessen over time like chronic illness or disability.
K: It’s tough to survive on part-time hours, especially when the jobs on offer tend to be less well compensated. This led us to think that applying for one full-time job together would be a more sensible option, and give us a better chance of success.
Are there reasons that job shares are good for employers?
J: Well, I’ve found that ‘two heads are better than one’ for creative problem solving. Discussions with Katherine are always expansive, fewer things get missed. And there’s less chance of unexpected gaps. Whenever one of us is on holiday or off sick, the other is there to make sure nothing critical gets delayed.
K: Yes, and when you offer a working pattern that’s more accessible to people from marginalised backgrounds, you increase the chances of introducing diverse perspectives into the organisation. You also get a much broader skillset when you hire two people instead of one.
How have you made the arrangement work practically?
K: Well, we have a joint email address in addition to our separate ones. It sends a copy of any incoming emails to both of our inboxes, and we open three-person message threads in Slack for all our direct communications. We do as much work in the public channels as possible for transparency. We keep all Google calendar meetings editable by anyone, in the shared team calendar as well as our own. Jamieson works mornings and I do afternoons, but there’s some flexibility around that when needed.
J: We’re separate entities in our time logging system, Productive, and we log the hours the client has agreed to be billed between us. If one day someone works more or less than planned, we make it up informally through the sprint. Our joint Trello board is our shared to-do list; that and Slack are the first things we check when we log in, so we know what the other is handing over. We chat over anything that needs context when we overlap and stand-ups are scheduled to fall within our crossover period in the middle of the day.
How has the job share been for the teams you’ve worked with?
We know many people haven’t worked with a job share before, so we like to ask our colleagues for feedback on how it’s working for them. So far we haven’t had complaints:
“I was wondering how it would work in practice for the project team and what the challenges might be, but it’s literally been seamless from my perspective.”
“I think it’s working well, and I don’t feel there’s anything that gets lost in the transition between the two of them halfway through the day.”
“Well managed, with great communication on any upcoming gaps due to leave or illness.”
“It seems to work well enough that I find it hard to distinguish who did what!”
And how has it been for the two of you so far?
K: While we share a lot of skills in operations and strategy, Jamieson’s background is more product and research, whereas mine is larger scale, more complex delivery. This means we’re always both learning from each other, and I’ve noticed I feel safer taking risks and pushing myself out of my comfort zone knowing Jamieson is there. Sharing responsibilities with someone I respect and admire has really stretched my confidence. It’s also accelerated my understanding of what makes for effective communication – being clear and direct enough that two brains start functioning as one really is next level comms!
J: The job share has made me more efficient and better at trusting others to share workload, because Katherine always delivers. It’s an immediate source of more creativity– having her around to workshop tricky challenges with an understanding of all the context has helped me get clearer on what to do next, faster. And honestly, working with my best mate is just so joyful! It’s made work more playful, rather than making our friendship feel more like work.