Job sharing is loosely defined as a flexible work arrangement option in which two (or possibly more) employees share a single job. The number of U.S. employers offering job sharing as an option peaked in the early 2000’s, when more than 25% of companies reported offering it as a flexible work option for employees in specific situations. Job sharing has since slightly decreased in popularity; currently it is estimated that approximately 20% of U.S. employers offer the option.
Despite the decline in the popularity of job sharing, 20% still represents a large portion of the country’s employers, most of which report the results of job sharing in largely positive terms. Among the reasons job sharing remains a somewhat controversial alternative to flexible working hours, telecommuting and compressed work weeks, is that many employers may be hesitant to offer their employees the benefit of this increased flexibility because they expect it will negatively impact the bottom line and overall productivity of their business.
On first consideration, it may seem that employees would reap most of the benefit from a job sharing arrangement, while employers would absorb most of the risk. In reality, as with every type of work arrangement, job sharing offers up pros and cons for both employees and employers.
Workers looking for more time in their lives to take care of children or aging parents, or who are able to afford to work less in order to have more time to enjoy outside interests and hobbies, stand to gain a lot from job sharing. And employers can benefit from job sharing by gaining the perspective of two talented individuals, rather than just one, in a role. Job sharing also often leads to extended work days, and therefore more productivity, without an employer having to pay staff overtime. Employers can also ask job sharers to work more during busy seasons, eliminating the possible inconvenience and expense of having to hire and train temporary employees.
Despite these potential benefits, job sharing also poses challenges that must be carefully considered and planned for in order for the arrangement to be successful. One issue that can arise is a lack of ownership of the role by the employees. Without clear coordination between job sharers, neither the employees nor the boss may know who is responsible for what aspect of shared tasks. This can easily lead to confusion, decreased productivity, and frustration.
To avoid this problem, it is necessary for job sharers to keep in communication and inform one another about the status of tasks in progress and any critical needs they’ll need to address during their next scheduled shift. In order for job sharing to be beneficial, those responsible for managing the individuals sharing the roles must be vigilant about encouraging communication and monitoring productivity.
By Rebecca Wentworth