Does job sharing really work? With enough planning it can be extremely effective.
By Carolyn Boyd
Are two heads better than one?
Sharon Newall is fairly typical of most people who land a job sharing role. She is a
company insider and so is her job share partner Narelle Hunt.
Although job sharing has been entrenched in the corporate vernacular for a decade or
more, advertised roles are still few and far between. Job share positions are most likely
to be created from within a company, to meet the needs of existing staff members.
As senior business relationship managers with AMP Corporate Superannuation, Newall
and Hunt are responsible for maintaining and growing $340 million of assets under
They happened upon their job sharing role 13 years ago when AMP restructured and
decided that, at that stage, it could no longer offer part time positions.
‘They didn’t want to lose our services so they said we could apply for one of the roles
together,’ Newall says. The pair did, settling on an arrangement where they both work
three days a week, having one day in the office together.
Newall puts the success of the partnership down to mutual respect and a similar work
ethic. ‘There’s never been any problems at all, we’re quite lucky with that,’ she says.
‘One is not more dominant than the other. That’s essential. But we’re completely
different people. Narelle’s more of a ‘bull at a gate type of person’ whereas I’m a ‘dot
the i, cross the t person’, and that’s why I think we work so well. I work a little bit
slower than her.
‘It’s like a lovely blend because she can sort of push me on but then I make her look at
what she’s doing so she can be a little bit more thorough.’
An in depth understanding of each partner is vital for job sharing, says part-time online
director Liana Gorman, who has worked in recruitment for 25 years. Everything needs
to be nutted out upfront, says Gorman, with job sharers exploring each other’s likes and
dislikes, strengths and weaknesses and work preferences.
Gorman says the biggest threat to job sharing is not enough planning. ‘It could fall apart
if you haven’t thought it through properly. For instance, if people don’t consider the
implications on the rest of the team, the implications on the outcomes or if they don’t
consider the strengths and weaknesses of each party and what they can bring to the
table,’ she says.
Another problem is a failure to keep co workers in the loop. ‘Where communication is
not clear, other people around you in the team might get frustrated and think, ‘Well,
OK, who do I talk to?’ Or they have to repeat themselves more than once in terms of the
information that they are providing. Where job shares may not work is when people get
frustrated with all of that.’
Author Kerry Fallon Horgan from Flexibility At Work says the organisational culture,
systems and processes need to support the arrangement.
Newall hates the term ‘job share’ because too often people assume that means she
performs a junior role. ‘I feel like people do think of you as being an administrator and
you’re just a pencil pusher and then at three o’clock the bell rings and you walk out and
somebody comes in and sits down and picks up your pencil and keeps ticking away at
what you were doing,’ she says.
‘The perception among people is very much that [one] when you say job share. But with
us, because it’s a management role, it’s different. With us, quite often I don’t say that
Narelle and I job share, I say that Narelle and I work together and we share a portfolio
of clients because I personally think that’s exactly what we do.’
In some organisations there is the erroneous perception that job sharers are not
committed to their work and that it is only appropriate for jobs that hold little
responsibility, Fallon Horgan says. Because managing job sharers can be more
complicated than overseeing single employees, many companies only offer job sharing
for simpler roles where tasks can be split into standalone units.
CPA Kimberley Quinn, a Melbourne recruiter who specialises in placing accountants
for Hamilton James Bruce, says she’s had no call to fill a job sharing role. ‘It is so tough
to find one, let alone two high calibre senior candidates that I think it would be unlikely
to occur in the professional services firms,’ she says.
This is a situation that is slowly changing, Fallon Horgan says. ‘I’m now finding that
increasing skills shortages are forcing organisations to rethink their positions on job
Kristen Gallacher from specialist recruiter DareTwoShare was recently tasked with
finding a job share partner for a retail marketing manager within a large IT company,
and knows of job share arrangements for other senior roles such as corporate
communications managers and lawyers. ‘They do exist at that level, but generally
require a bit of a push from another senior exec or someone else with a vested interest in
that position,’ she says.
Most job seekers aren’t fussed whether they work part time or job share, as long as they
feel an integral part of the business, Gallacher says. Despite her agency’s name,
Gallacher admits most placements are for part time roles. ‘Sometimes a part time role is
easier to fill than a true job share (for both employer and job sharer),’ she says.
The pluses of job sharing are that they can attract more mature and experienced
candidates who have other commitments. ‘There is a different attitude from these job
seekers, they are more productive with their time and there is a commitment to making
it work,’ Gallacher says.
Kathy Finckh, HR manager of diversity at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia agrees.
‘We most often find that job sharers and part timers are more engaged. They take less
time off for unscheduled absences, they take less sick leave as well, and therefore
they’re more productive. Their personal needs are being met, so really it’s a win–win for
both the business and for the employees,’ she says.
The Commonwealth Bank has about 7000 part time employees, of which 350 job share.
It has an online application process. ‘The employees fill out the details about how the
job share roles might work, they actively find someone else who might want to job share
with them, or they have a discussion with their manager who might know someone who
wants such an arrangement,’ Finckh explains.
Belinda Gremmo requested a job sharing role when she returned to the bank from
maternity leave in November. Her choice of a partner was fairly obvious because the
woman who had temporarily filled her position, Luisa Moncada, also wanted to work
‘It was a little bit in place in terms of she’d built up that knowledge while I’d been away
and she worked part time so it just made sense that we could give it a try. I would say on
the whole though, for bank people, it’s not normally that easy to find a job share
Gremmo says in sharing the role of executive manager, workforce effectiveness, the duo
have formal handover sessions each week. They also have the same level of experience
and similar backgrounds.
One sticky issue for job sharers can be pay. If both parties are doing the same role,
should they automatically be paid the same?
This is something that really needs to be discussed in advance to avoid resentment,
Gorman says. ‘The two job shares may not have the same level of experience,’ she says.
AMP’s Newall says equal pay is important to the success of her role. She and Hunt are
paid the same, and their bonus is split evenly. ‘I’d be cheesed off and I know that
Narelle would be cheesed off as well, if one was earning more than the other, especially
when we know that we both put in as much effort as the other,’ Newall says.
One thing for employers to be mindful of is that they are not inadvertently driving their
job sharing workers into the ground.
‘I have been told of job shares not working and some of the issues of that tended to be
where there are no boundaries set,’ Gorman says. ‘Rather than it being one full time job
share role, it ends up being both parties working four days a week and still not achieving
their personal goals.’
Striking the right work?life balance for part time staff is proving difficult, as shown in a
recent Beaton Consulting study. The firm surveyed 12,000 knowledge workers and
found that many part timers felt obliged to work as hard as their full time colleagues, but
suffered from career dead ends and lower pay, which made them feel less loyal and
more likely to switch employers.
The big plus of job sharing is that you’ve got two heads to overcome challenges.
Gallacher argues that different experiences, broader skill sets and different personalities
offer employers a definite advantage. There is also the potential for better coverage of a
role in the case of leave or resignation of one employee.
For Newall, having a partner to lean on can make a high stress job easier to cope with.
‘People never give much value to the emotional support that we give each other,’ she
‘If I’m having one of those days where I’m thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, this is all just
getting too much’, I can give Narelle a quick buzz and she will say, no this will be fine,
we’ll handle this together. It’s great.
‘Even though I’ve got co workers there, everybody really has their own objectives and
their own portfolios. They might be so involved with what they’re doing you might feel
you’re going to interrupt them.’
Having two staff can also be a negative, Gallacher says: ‘Two personalities in a role can
sometimes cause tension, not just between job sharers but within a team (or dealing with
clients) and there is opportunity for some duplication, so it is necessary to ensure a clean
handover and seamless processes. None of this is insurmountable and the upsides far
outweigh the downsides.’
Do's and Don’ts
• Promote open communication between management / clients and the job sharers.
• Discuss a ‘social contract’ between all parties, delving into how the job share
will be handled, how the sharers and colleagues will be kept informed and how
each person will be treated. Put this in writing.
• Appoint a third party coach to help job sharers through the first six months to a
year of their role.
• Address all relevant issues upfront, including pay.
• Assume job sharers will work it out by themselves.
• Assume that any two parties can job share – mutual respect and the ability to
communicate can make or break an arrangement.
• Give up on job sharing if one arrangement fails. Instead look at what went
wrong and think about how to avoid that problem in other cases.
• Leave job sharers languishing with no career progression plans or possibilities
for pay rises.
Types of job sharing
1. Two employees share the one job and the same responsibility, and there is no
division of duties. The partners are interchangeable and each is able to pick up
where the other one left off.
This arrangement is more suited to ongoing work than to project or client work.
The partners need to be very compatible, with a similar vision and attitudes to
2. Two employees share the one job and divide the responsibilities between them.
The partners may also provide back up for one another.
Sometimes referred to as job splitting, this arrangement is most suited to
working with distinct parts, where each partner can take responsibility for a
specific part of the job, such as specific projects or customers.
In some cases it could mean dividing the tasks of the job. One worker might
provide the customer service and the other undertake the administration.
3. Two employees perform completely different tasks but generally work in the
same vicinity. This is basically two part time jobs, and would be appropriate
where the partners do not have similar skills.
Reference: CPA Journal volume 78:05, p. 38 – 41